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E C T U R E 

O N 




' By HUGH BLAIR, D.D. & F.R.S. Ed. 








And Sold by T. Cadell Jun. and W. Davies, 

(Succeffors to jMr. Cadell,) in the Strand, 



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O F T H E 




LECT. Page 

the Antients and the Mo- 
derns — Hiftorical Writing. 
XXXVI. Hiftorical Writing. 
XXXVII. Philqfophical Writing — Dialogue 
— Epiftolary Writing — Fic- 
titious Hijiory. 
XXXVIII. Nature of Poetry— Its Origin and 

Progress — Verfification. 79 

XXXIX. P aft oral Poetry — Lyric Poetry. 107 
XL. Didaclic Poetry — Descriptive Po- 
etry. - - - 137 
XL I. The Poetry of the Hebrews. 165 
XLII. Epic Poetry. - - 190 
XLIII. Homer's Iliad and Qdyjfey—Vir- 

giVs jEneid. - 216 



1ECT. Page 

XLIV. Lucan's Pharfalia — Tajb's Jeru- 
salem — Canteen's' Lufiad — 
Fenelon's Telemachus — Vol- 
taire's Henriade — Milton's 
Paradife Loft. - i\i 

"XLV. Dramatic Poetry — 'Tragedy. 272 

"X LV I . Tragedy — Greek — French — Eng- 

lijlo Tragedy. - 301 

XL VI I. Comedy — Greek and Roman — 

French — Englijh Comedy, 33a 






have now finimed that part of the Courfe lect. 

. XXXY. 

which refpected Oratory or Public Speaking* ^ ' - 
and which, as far as the fubject allowed, I have 
endeavoured to form into fome fort of fyftem. It 
remains, that I enter on the confederation of the 
mod diilinguifhed kinds of Compofition both in 
Profe and Verfe, and point out the principles of 
Criticifm relating to them. This part of the work 
might eafily be drawn out to a great length ; but 
1 am fenfible, that critical difcuffions, when they 
are purfued too far, become both trifling and te- 
dious. I fhall ftudy, therefore, to avoid un* 
neceflary prolixity; and hope, at the fame time, 
to omit nothing that is very material under the 
feveral heads. 

I shall follow the fame method .here which I 

have all along purfued, and without which thefe 

vol. in. b Leisures 



Lectures could not be entitled to any attention;, 
that is, I ihall freely deliver my own opinion on 
every fubjefl:; regarding authority no farther, than 
as it appears to me founded on good fenfe and 
reafon. In former Lectures, as I have often 
quoted feveral of the ancient daffies for their 
beauties, fo I have alfo, fometimes, pointed out 
their defects. Hereafter, I (hall have occafion 
to do the fame, when treating of their writings 
under more general heads. It may be fit, there- 
fore, th3t, before I proceed farther, I make fome 
obfervations on the comparative merit of the An- 
tients and the Moderns j in order that we may be 
able to afcertain rationally, upon what foundation 
that deference refts, which has fo generally been 
paid to the antients. Thefe obfervations are the 
more neceiTary, as this fubjecl: has given rife to no 
fmall controverfy in the Republic of Letters ; and 
they may, with propriety, be made now, as they 
will ferve to throw light on fome things I have 
afterwards to deliver,, concerning different kinds 
of Compofiuion. 

It is a remarkable phenomenon, and one which 
has often employed the {peculations of curious men> 
that Writers and Artifts, mod diftinguifhed for 
their parts and genius, have generally appeared in 
coniiderable numbers at a time. Some ages have 
been remarkably barren in them; while, at other 
periods, Nature feems to have exerted herfelf with 
a more than ordinary effort, and to have poured 
7 i them 


them forth with a profufe fertility. Various rea- 
fons have been affigned for this. Some of the 
moral caufes lie obvious ; fuch as favourable cir- 
cumftances of government and of manners ; en- 
couragement from great men ; emulation excited 
among the men of genius. But as thefe have 
been thought inadequate to the whole effect, phy- 
fical caufes have been alfo affigned ; and the Abbe 
du Bos, in his Reflections on Poetry and Painting, 
has collected a great many obfervations on the in- 
fluence which the air, the climate, and other fuch 
natural caufes, may be fuppofed to have upon 
genius. But whatever the caufes be, the fact is 
certain, that there have been certain periods or 
ages of the world much more diftingui fried 
than others, for the extraordinary productions of 

Learned men have marked out four of thefe 
happy ages. The firfl is the Grecian Age, which 
commenced near the time of the Peloponnefian 
war, and extended till the time of Alexander the 
Great j within which period, we have Herodotus, 
Thucydides, Xenophon, Socrates, Plato, Arif- 
totle, Demofthenes, iEfchines, Lyfias, liberates, 
Pindar, iEfchylus, Euripides, Sophocles, Arifto- 
phanes, Menander, Anacreon, Theocritus, Ly- 
fippus, Apelles, Phidias, Praxiteles. The fecond 
is the Roman Acre, included neariv within the days 
of Julius Csfar and Auguftus •, affording us Ca- 
tullus, Lucretius, Terence, Virgil, Horace, Ti- 
s 2 bullus, 

l e c T. 


bulius, Propertius, Ovid, Phsedrus, Casfar, Cicero* 
Livy, Salluft, Varro, and Vitruvius. The third 
Age is, that of the reftoration of Learning, under 
the Popes Julius II. and Leo X.; when nourifhed 
Arioftoj Taflb, Sannazarius, Vida, Machiavel, 
Guicciardini, Davilaj Erafmus, Paul Jovius, 
Michael Angelo, Raphael, Titian. The fourth, 
-comprehends the Age of Louis XIV. and Queen 
Anne, when flourished in France, Corneille, 
Racine, De Retz, Moliere, Boileau, Fontaine, 
Baptirte, RouiTeau, BofTuet, Fenelon, Bourda- 
loUe, Pafcal], Malebranche, Maflillon, Bruyere, 
Bayle, Fontenelle, Vertot ; and in England, 
Dryden, Pope, Addifon, Prior, Swift, Parnell, 
Arbuthnot, Congreve^ Otway, Young, Rowe, 
Atterbury, Shaftfbury, Bolingbroke, Tillotfon, 
Temple, Boyle, Locke, Newton, Clarke. 

When we fpeak comparatively of the Antients 
and the Moderns, we generally mean by the An- 
tients, fuch as lived in the two firft of thefe periods, 
including alio one or two who lived more early, as 
liomer in particular j and by the Moderns, thofe 
who rlourifhed in the two laft of thefe ages, in- 
cluding alfo the eminent Writers down to our own 
times. Any comparifon between thefe two clafles 
of Writers, mud necefTarily be vague and loofe, 
as they comprehend fo many, and of fuch difFerenc 
kinds and degrees of genius. But the comparifon 
is generally made to turn, by thofe who are fond 
of making it, upon two or three of the moft dif- 



L ~E C T. 

tinguifhed in each clafs. With much heat it was 
agitated in France, between Boileau and Mad. 
Dacier, on the one hand, for the Ancients, and 
Perault and La Motce, on the other, for the Mo- 
derns; and it was carried to extremes on both 
fides. To this day, among men of tafte and 
letters, we find a leaning to one or other fide. A 
few reflections may throw light upon the fubjecl:, 
and enable us to difcern upon what grounds we 
are to reft our judgment in this controverfy. 

If any one, at this day, in the eighteenth century, 
takes upon him to decry the antient ClaflTics; if 
he pretends to have difcovered that Homer and 
Virgil are Poets of inconfiderable merit, and that 
Demoflhenes and Cicero are not great Orators, 
we may boldly venture to tell fuch a man, that 
he is come too late with his difcovery. The 
reputation of fuch Writers is eftablifhed upon a 
foundation too folid, to be now fhaken by any 
arguments whatever; for it is eftablifhed upon 
the almoft univerfal tafte of mankind, proved 
and tried throughout the fucceffion of fo many 
ages. Imperfections in their works he may in- 
deed point out; paffages that are faulty he may 
fhew; for where is the human work that is per- 
fect? But, if he attempts to difcredit their works 
in general, or to prove that the reputation which 
they have gained is, on the whole, unjuft, there is 
an argument againft him, which is equal to full 
{jemonftration. He muft be in the wrong; far 

b 3 human 



human nature is againft him. In matters of tafte, 
fuch as Poetry and Oratory, to whom does the 
appeal lie ? where is the ftandard ? and where the 
authority of the laft decifion ? where is it to be 
looked for, but, as I formerly (hewed, in thofe 
feelings and fentiments that are found, ,on the 
molt extenfive examination, to be the common 
fentiments and feelings of men ? Thefe have been 
fully confuked on this head. The Public, the 
unprejudiced Public, has been tried and appealed 
to for many centuries, and throughout almoft all 
civilized nations. It has pronounced its verdict ; 
it has given its fan 61 ion to thefe Writers -, and 
from this tribunal there lies no farther appeal. 

In matters of mere reafoning, the world may 
be long in an error j and may be convinced of 
the error by ftronger reafonings, when produced. 
Pofitions that depend upon fcience, upon know- 
ledge, and matters of fad, may be overturned 
according as fcience and knowledge are enlarged, 
and new matters of fact are brought to light. 
For this reafon a fyftem of Philofophy receives 
no fufEcient fanclion from its antiquity, or long 
currency. The world, as it grows older, may be 
juftly expected to become, if not wifer, at lead 
more knowing ; and fuppofing it doubtful whether 
Ariftctle, or Newton, were the greater genius, 
yet Newton's Philofophy may prevail over Arif- 
totle's by means of later difcoveries, to which 
Ariftotle was a ftranger. But nothing of this 



kind holds as to matters of Tafte; which depend 
not on the progrefs of knowledge and fcience, but 
upon fentiment and feeling. It is in vain to think 
of undeceiving mankind, with refpect to errors 
committed here, as in Philofophy. For the uni- 
verfal feeling of mankind is the natural feeling j 
and becaufe it is the natural, it is, for that reafon, 
the right feeli: g. The reputation of the Iliad and 
the JEntld mull therefore (land upon fure ground, 
becaufe it has flood fo long; though that of the 
Ariftotelian or Platonic Philofophy^ every one is 
at liberty to call in queftion. 

It is in vain alfo to allege, that the reputation 
of the antient Poets, and Orators, is owing to 
authority, to pedantry, and to the prejudices of 
education, tranfmitted from age to age. Thefe 5 
it is true, are the authors put into our hands at 
ichools and colleges, and by that means we have 
now an early prepoffeffion in their favour ; but 
how came they to gain the pofleiil m of colleges 
and fchools ? Plainly, by the high fame which 
thefe authors had among their own cotempo- 
raries. For the Greek and Latin were not always 
dead Languages. There was a time when Ho- 
mer, and Virgil, and Horace, were viewed in the 
fame light as we now view Dryden, Pope, and 
Addifon. It is not to commentators and univer- 
fities, that the clafllcs are indebted for their fame. 
They became clafllcs and Cch.ool- books, in confe- 
quence of the high admiration which was paid 

b .4 them 

L E C T. 


them by the bed judges in their own country and 
nation. As early as the days of Juvenal, who 
wrote under the reign of Domitian, we find Virgil 
and Horace become the flandard books in the 
education of youth. 

Quot ftabant pueri, cum totus decolor efTet 
Flaccus, Si hsereret nigro f uligo Maroni *. 

Sat. 7. 

From this general principle, then, of the repu- 
tation of the great antient Claffics being fo early, 
fo lading, fo extenfive, among all the moft po- 
lifhed nations, we may juftly and boldly infer 
that their reputation cannot be wholly unjuft, but 
muft have a folid foundation in the merit of their 

Let us guard, however, againft a blind and 
implicit veneration for the Antients, in every 
thing. I have opened the general principle, which 
muft go far in inftituting a fair companion between 
them and the Moderns. Whatever fuperiority the 
Antients may have had in point of genius, yet in 
all arts, where the natural progrefs of knowledge 
has had room to produce any confiderable effects, 

* " Then thou art bound to fmell, on either hand, 
" As many (linking lamps, as fchoolboys ftand, 
*« When Horace could not read in his own fully'd book, 
*f And Virgil's facred page was all befmear'd with fmoke." 




the Moderns cannot but have fome advantage. 
The world may, in certain refpects, be confidered 
as a perfon, who muft needs gain ibmewhat by 
advancing in years. Its improvements have not, 
I confefs, been always in proportion to the cen- 
turies that have pafTed over it; for, during the 
courfe of fome ages, it has funk as into a total 
lethargy. Yet, when roufed from that lethargy, 
it has generally been able to avail itfelf, more or 
lefs, of former difcoveries. At intervals, there 
arofe fome happy genius, who could both improve 
on what had gone before, and invent fomething 
new. With the advantage of a proper (lock of 
materials, an inferior genius can make greater 
progrefs, than a much fuperior one, to whom 
thefe materials are wanting. 

Hence, in Natural Philofophy, Aflronomy, 
Chemiftry, and other Sciences that depend on 
an extenfive knowledge and obfervation of facts, 
Modern Philofophers have an unquestionable 
fuperior icy over the Antient. I am inclined alfo 
to think, that in matters of pure reafoning, there 
is more precifion among the Moderns, than in 
fome inflances there was among the Antients; 
owing perhaps to a more extenfive literary inter- 
courie, which has improved and fharpened the 
faculties of men. In fome fludies too, that 
relate to tafte and fine writing, which is our ob- 
ject, the progrefs of Society muft, in equity, be 
admitted to have given us fome advantages. For 




inftance, in Hiftory, there is certainly more poli- 
tical knowledge in feveral European nations at pre- 
fent, than there was in antient Greece and Rome, 
We are better acquainted with the nature of go- 
vernment, becaufe we have feen it under a greater 
variety of forms and revolutions. The world is 
more laid open than it was in former times ; com- 
merce is greatly enlarged j more countries are 
civilized 5 polls are every where eftablifhed ; inter- 
courfe is become more eafy ; and the knowledge of 
facts, by confequence, more attainable. All thefe 
are great advantages to Hiftorians; of which, in 
fome meafure, as I fhall afterwards (how, they 
have availed themfelves. In the more complex 
kinds of Poetry, likewiie, we may have gained 
fomewhar, perhaps, in point of regularity and ac- 
curacy. In Dramatic Performances, having the 
advantage of the antient models, we may be 
allowed to have made fome improvements in the 
variety of the characters, the conduct of the plot, 
attentions to probability, and to decorums. 

These feem to me the chief points of fuperiority 
we can plead above the Antients. Neither do they 
extend as far, as might be imagined at firft view. 
For if the ftrength of genius be on one fide, it will 
go far, in works of tafte at lealt, to counterba- 
lance all the artificial improvements which can be 
made by greater knowledge and correctnefs. To 
return to our comparifon of the age of the world 
with that of a man ; it may be faid, not altogether 



without reafon, that if the advancing age of the lect. 

• 1 • f~ • <■ AAA V 4 

world bring along with it more lcience and more 
refinement:, there belong, however, to its earlier 
periods, more vigour, more fire, more enthufiafm 
of genius. This appears indeed to form the cha- 
radteriftical difference between the antient Poets, 
Orators, and Hiftorians, compared with the Mo- 
dern. Among the Antients, we find higher con- 
ceptions, greater fimplicity, more original fancy. 
Among the Moderns, fometimes more arc and 
correitnefs, but feebler exertions of genius. But 
though this be in general a mark of diftindtion 
between the Antients and Moderns, yet, like all 
general obfervations, it muft be underftood with 
fome exceptions ; for, in point of poetical fire and 
original genius, Milton and Shakelpeare are infe- 
rior to no Poets in any age. 

It is proper to obferve, that there were fomc 
circumftances in antient times, very favourable to 
thofe uncommon efforts of genius which were then 
exerted. Learning was a much more rare and 
lingular attainment in the earlier ages, than it is 
at prefent. It was not to fchools and univerfities 
that the perfons applied, who fought to didinguifh 
themfelves. They had not this eafy recourfe. 
They travelled for their improvement into diftant 
countries, to Egypt, and to the Eaft. They en- 
quired after all the monuments of learning there. 
They converfed with Priefts, Philofophers, Poets, 
with all who had acquired any diftinguifhed'fame. 



t e c t. They returned to their own country full of the dif- 
covenes which they had made, and fired by the 
new and uncommon objects which they had feen. 
Their knowledge and improvements cod them 
more labour, raifed in them more enthufiafm, were 
attended with higher rewards and honours, than in 
modern days. Fewer had the means and oppor- 
tunities of diftinguifhing themfelves ; but fuch as 
did diftinguifh themfelves, were fure of acquiring 
that fame, and even veneration, which is, of all 
rewards, the greatefl: incentive to genius. Hero- 
dotus read his hiftory to all Greece aiTembled at 
the Olympic games, and was publicly crowned. 
In the Peloponnefian war, when the Athenian 
army was defeated in Sicily, and the prifoners 
were ordered to be put to death, fuch of them as 
could repeat any verfes of Euripides were faved, 
from honour to that Poet, who was a citizen of 
Athens. Thefe were teftimonies of public re- 
gard, far beyond what modern manners confer 
upon genius. 

In our times, good writing is confidered as an 
attainment, neither fo difficult nor fo high and 

Scribimus indocYi, do&ique, Poemata paffim *. 

* " Now every defperate blockhead dares to write, 
" Yerfe is the trade of every living wight." 


- We 


We write much more fupinely, and at our eafe, L E c T - 
than the Antients. To excel, is become a much 
lefs confiderable object. Lefs effort, lefs exertion 
is required, becaufe we have many more afiiftances 
than they. Printing has rendered all books com- 
mon, and eafy to be had. Education for any of 
the learned profcffions can be carried on without 
much trouble. Hence a mediocrity of genius is 
fpread over all. But to rife beyond that, and to 
overtop the crowd, is given to few. The multi- 
tude of afiiftances which we have for all kinds 
of composition, in the opinion of Sir William 
Temple, a very competent judge, rather deprelTes 
than favours the exertions of native genius. fC It 
" is very poh y ible,' , fays that ingenious Author,, 
in his EfTay on the Antients and Moderns, (C that 
<f men may lofe rather than gain by thefe ; may 
" leiTen the force of their own genius, by forming 
" it upon that of others ; may have lefs know- 
tc ledge of their own, for contenting themfelves 
< £ with that of thofe before them. So a man that 
" only tranflates, fhall never be a Poet; fo people 
" that trull to others charity, rather than their 
M own induftry, will be always poor. Who can 
" tell," he adds, " whether learning may not even 
" weaken invention, in a man that has great ad- 
<c vantages from nature ? Whether the weight 
s( and number of fo many other men's thoughts 
" and notions may not fupprefs his own -, as 
f* heaping on wood fometimes fuppreffes a little 
te fpark, that would otherwife have grown into a 
i ** flame ? 


" flame ? The ftrength of mind, as well as of 
" body, grows more from the warmth of exercife, 
" than of clothes ; nay, too much of this foreign 
" heat, rather makes men faint, and their con- 
iC ftitutions weaker than they would be without 
« them." 

From whatever caufe it happens, fo it is, that 
among fome of the Antient Writers, we muft look 
for the higheft models in moil of the kinds of ele- 
gant Compofition. For accurate thinking and en- 
larged ideas, in feveral parts of Philofophy, to the 
Moderns we ought chiefly to have recourfe. Of 
correct and finifhed writing in fome works of tafte, 
they may afford ufeful patterns ; but for all that 
belongs to original genius, to fpirited, mafterly, 
and high execution, our beft and moil happy ideas 
are, generally fpeaking, drawn from the Antients. 
In Epic Poetry, for inftance, Homer and Virgil, 
to this day, ftand not within many degrees of any 
rival. Orators fuch as Cicero and Demofthenes, 
we have none. In hiftory, notwithstanding fome 
defects, which I am afterwards to mention in the 
Antient Hiflorical Plans, it may be fafely aflerted, 
that we have no fuch hiftorical narration, fo elegant, 
fo picturefque, fo animated, and interesting as that 
of Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Livy, Ta- 
citus, and Salluft. Although the conduct of the 
drama may be admitted to have received fome im- 
provements, yet for Poetry and Sentiment we have 
nothiog to equal Sophocles and Euripides ; nor 
. . . any 


any dialogue in Comedy, that comes up to the L xxxv\ 
correct, graceful, and elegant fimplicity of Te- 
rence. We have no fuch Love Elegies as thofe 
of Tibullus ; no fuch Paftorals as fome of The- 
ocritusV. and for Lyric Poetry, Horace ftands 
quite unrivalled. The name of Horace cannot be 
mentioned without a particular encomium. That 
t( Curiofa Felicitas," which Petronius has remarked 
in his expreffion j the fweetnefs, elegance, and fpi- 
rit of many of his Odes, the thorough knowledge 
of the world, the excellent fentiments, and na- 
tural eafy manner which diftinguifn his Satires and 
Epiftles, all contribute to render him one of thofe 
very few Authors whom one never tires of read- 
ing; and from whom alone, were every other 
monument destroyed, we fhould be led to form a 
very high idea of the tafte and genius of the Au- 
guftan Age. 

To all fuch then, as wifii to form their tafte, 
and nourifh their genius, let me warmly recom- 
mend the affiduous iludy of the Antient Clafiks, 
both Greek and Roman. 

Nocturna verfate rftanu, verfate diurna *. 

Without a considerable acquaintance with them, no 
man can be reckoned a polite fcholar; and he 

Read them by day, and ftudy them by night." 




L E C T. 


will want many aftiftances for writing and fpeaking 
well, which the knowledge of fuch Authors would 
afford him. Any one has great reafon to fufpect 
his own tafte, who receives little or no pleafure 
from the perufal of Writings, which fo many ages 
and nations have confented in holding up as ob- 
jects of admiration. And I am perfuaded, it will 
be found, that in proportion as the Antients are 
generally fludied and admired, or are unknown and 
difregarded in any country, good tafte and good 
compofition will flourifh, or decline. They are 
commonly none but the ignorant or fuperficial, 
who undervalue them. 

At the fame time, a juftand high regard for the 
prime writers of antiquity is to be always diltin- 
guiihed, from that contempt of every thing which 
is Modern, and that blind veneration for all that 
has been written in Greek or Latin, which belongs 
only to pedants. Among the Greek and Roman 
Authors, lbme afluredly deferve much higher re- 
gard than others j nay, fome are of no great value. 
Even the belt of them lie open occafionally to jult 
cenlure ; for to no human performance is it given, 
to be abfolutely perfecl:. We may, we ought there- 
fore to read them with a diftinguiihing eye, fo as 
to propofe for imitation their beauties only; and it 
is perfectly confident with juft and candid criticifm, 
to find fault with parts, while, at the fame time, it 
admires/the whole. 




After thefe reflections on the Antients and 
Moderns, I proceed to a critical examination of 
the mod diftinguifhed kinds of Compofition, and 
the characters of thofe Writers who have excelled 
in them, whether Modern or Antient. 

The mod general divifion of the different kinds 
of Compofition is, into thofe written in Profe, and 
thofe written in Verfe ; which certainly require to 
be feparately confidered, becaufe fubject to fepa- 
rate laws. I begin, as is mod natural, with 
"Writings in Profe. Of Orations, or Public Dif- 
courfes of all kinds, I have already treated fully. 
The remaining fpecies of Profe Compofitions, 
which affume any fuch regular form, as to fall un- 
der the cognizance of criticifm, feem to be chiefly 
thefe : Hiftorical Writing, Philofophical Writing, 
Epiftolary Writing, and Fictitious Hiftory. Hifto- 
rical Compofition fhall be firft confidered j and, 
as it is an object of dignity, I propofe to treat of ic 
at fome length. 

As it is the office of an Orator to perfuade, it is 
that of an Hiftorian to record truth for the inftruc- 
tion of mankind. This is the proper object and 
end of Hiftory, from which may be deduced many 
of the laws relating to it; and if this object were 
always kept in view, it would prevent many of 
the errors into which perfons are apt to fall, 
concerning this fpecies of Compofition. As the 
primary end of hiftory is to record truth, Impar- 

vol. in. c tiality, 


tiality, Fidelity, and Accuracy, are the funda- 
mental qualities of an Hiftorian. He muft neither 
be a Panegyrift nor a Satirift. He muft not enter 
into faction, nor give fcope to affection : but, 
contemplating paft events and characters with a 
cool and difpaffionate eye, muft prefent to his 
Readers a faithful copy of human nature. 

At the fame time, it is not every record of 
facts, however true, that is entitled to the name 
of Hiftoryj but fuch a record as enables us to ap- 
ply the tranfactions of former ages for our own 
jnftruction. The facts ought to be momentous 
and important; reprefented in connection with their 
caufes ; traced to their effects ; and unfolded in 
clear and diftinct order. For wifdom is the great 
end of Hiftcry. It is defigned to fupply the want 
of experience. Though it enforce not its instruc- 
tions with the fame authority, yet it furnifhes us 
with a greater variety df inftructions, than it is 

o -• * 

poffible for experience to afford in the courfe of 
the longeft life. Its object is, to enlarge our views 
of the human character, and to give full exercife 
to our judgment on human affairs. It muft not 
therefore be a tale calculated to pleafe only, and 
addreffed to the fancy. Gravity and dignity are 
effential characteristics of Hiftory j no light orna- 
ments are to be employed, no flippancy of ftyle, 
no quaintnefs of wit. But the Writer muft fuftain 
the character of a wife man, writing for the in- 
fcruction of pofterity 5 one who has ftudied to 


historical Writing. *9 

inform himfelf well, who has pondered his fubjecT: L A^ T " 

. AAA V» 

with care, and addreffes himfelf to our judgment, 
rather than to our imagination. At the fame time, 
Hiftorical Writing is by no means inconfiftent with 
ornamented and fpirited narration. It admks of 
much high ornament and elegance *, but tne orna- 
ments mud be always confident with dignity ; they 
ihould not appear to be fought after ; but to rife 
naturally from a mind animated by the events 
which it records. 

Historical Compofition is underftood to com- 
prehend under it, Annals, Memoirs, Lives. But; 
thefe are its inferior fubordinate fpecies -, on which 
I fhall hereafter make fome reflexions, when I 
fhall have firft confidered what belongs to a regular 
and legitimate work of Hiftory. Such a work is 
chiefly of two kinds. Either the entire Hiftory of 
fome ftate or kingdom through its different revo- 
lutions, fuch as Livy's Roman Hiftory j or the 
Hiftory of fome one great event, or fome portion or 
period of time which may be confidered as making 
a whole by itfelf ; fuch as, Thucydides's Hiftory 
of the Peloponnefian war, Davila's Hiftory of the 
Civil Wars of France, or Clarendon's of thofe of 

In the conduct and management of his fubject, 
the firft attention requifite in an Hiftorian, is to 
give it as much unity as poffible; that is, his 
Hiftory fhould not confift of feparate unconnected 

c 2 parts 


L xxxv T * P arts mere l v > Dut fhould be bound together by 
'w.y-^, f° me connecting principle, which fhall make the 
impreffion on the mind of fomething that is one, 
whole and entire. It is inconceivable how great an 
effect this, when happily executed, has upon a 
•Reader, and it is furprifing that fome able Writers 
of Hiftory have not attended to it more. Whe- 
ther pleafure or instruction be the end fought by 
the ftudy of Hiftory, either of them is enjoyed to 
much greater advantage, when the mind has al- 
ways before it the progrefs of fome one great plan 
cr fyftem of actions -, when there is fome point or 
rentre, to which we can refer the various facts 
related by the Hiftorian. 

In general Hiftories, which record the affairs of 
a whole nation or empire throughout feveral ages, 
this unity, I confefs, mull be more imperfect, 
Yet even there, fome degree of it can be pre- 
served by a fkilful Writer. ■ For though the whole, 
taken together, be very complex, yet the great 
conftituent parts of it, form fo many fubordinate 
wholes, when taken by themfelves ; each of which 
can be treated both as complete within itfelf, and 
as connected with what goes before and follows. 
In the Hiftory of a Monarchy, for inftance, every 
reign mould have its own unity ; a beginning, a 
middle, and an end to the fyftem of affairs -, while, 
at the fame time, we are taught to difcern how that 
fyftem of affairs rofe from the preceding, and how 
>: is inferred into what follows. We fhould be able 



to trace all the fecret links of the chain, which L ^ ? T - 
binds together remote, and feemingly unconnected 
events. In fome kingdoms of Europe, it was the 
plan of many fucceffive Princes to reduce the power 
of their Nobles; and during feveral reigns, moft 
of the leading actions had a reference to this end* 
In other ftates, the rifing power of the Commons, 
influenced for a tract of time the courfe and con- 
nection of public affairs. Among the Romans, 
the leading principle was a gradual extenfion of 
conqueft, and the attainment of univerfal empire. 
The continual increafe of their power, advancing 
towards this end from fmall beginnings, and by a 
fort of regular progrefllve plan, furniflied to Livy 
a happy fubject fGr hiftorical unity, in the midft of 
a great variety of tranfactions. 

Of all the antient general Hiftorians, the one 
who had the moft exact idea of this quality of 
Hiftorical Compofition, though, in other refpedts, 
not an elegant Writer, is Polybius. This appears 
from the account he gives of his own plan in the 
beginning of his third Book ; obferving, that the 
fubject of which he had undertaken to write, is, 
throughout the whole of it, one action, one great 
fbectacle ; how, and by what caufes, ail the parts- 
of the habitable world became fubject to the 
Roman empire. cc This action," fays he, tc is 
" diftinct in its beginning, determined in its 
" duration, and clear in its final accomplishment j 
cc therefore^ I think it of ufe, to give a general 

c 3 " view 


" view beforehand, of the chief conftituent parts 
•* which make up this whole." In another place, 
he congratulates himfelf on his good fortune, in 
having a fubject for Hiftory, which allowed fuch 
variety of parts to be united under one view; 
remarking,, that before this period, the affairs of 
the world were fcattered, and without connection ; 
whereas, in the times of which he writes, all the 
great tranfactions of the world tended and verged 
to one point, and were capable of being confidered 
as parts of one fyftem. Whereupon he adds fe- 
veral very judicious obfervations, concerning the 
uiefulnefs of writing Hiftory upon fuch a compre- 
henfive and connected plan j comparing the im- 
perfect degree of knowledge, which is afforded 
by particular facts without general views, to the 
imperfect idea which one would entertain of an 
animal, who had beheld its feparate parts only, 
without having ever feen its entire form and 
ilructure *. 


* K.?.Qi'/\U ^EV 7<K£ l[A.0iyB ObJCOVffW Ot "E7 5 7T S I CT ( 'yC=. Kyi fool T1JJ KO.TO, /XFfOJ 

Tns<; ZjA,-+v%ii Xai KaXou oolfjUcTo; yzywiros o.i.V',a;:a T« f/iEgfi dufAifoij, 
.oy.iC^.yiv txanu; «ktot7Ta.» yiyv^fiat t>:; higye'nti; uvrit, m Cu'jv xui 
xci^ovri-. \i yxj> t»c avTtXu u.u'.'-.x (rvwili y.xi rtXtion 0H/6t$ U7Tff>yoccra[l£toq 
To t^iov, Ti) T= sidii oifi) fm -^i^y.; ivtt jjr; .-; x , xmithtx tUUXiv raiwiixpvol 

Ts<i airtoit; iXn-.OM, rct^iui; a.v o.fACi-i 'Sixnuq xvT-u; 'jp.oXoyv;crui/ dio rt, 

rvi; cvziP&Tt(jVcrui r,C3,\. £vvoi^» f/.£t yu.> ?.K«:i» ar.'o uitij; rut 0A&>» oufecror^ 
fmjripwi ei x^ y\sc[f.r,i UTftK-n e%n» »av*eeroim o>o -EravnAx? |5s«va Tt 
tofjuftw Wj&ebJO&dwy 7-s ;ca.7c- ptffog [rofKCT f&^Oj ttj* "toy oAa'? £j«.7r£ipia»i 


Such as write the hiftory of fome particular 
great tranfaction, as confine themfelves to one 
£era, or one portion of the hiftory of a nation, 
have fo great advantages for preferving hiftoncal 
unity, that they are inexcufable, if they fail in it. 
Salluft's Hiftories of the Catilinarian and Jugur- 
thine wars, Xenophon's Cyropsdia, and his Re- 
treat of the Ten Thoufand, are inftances of par- 
ticular Hiftories, where the unity of hiftorical 
object is perfectly well maintained. Thucydides, 
otherwife a writer of great ftrength and dignity, 
has failed much, in this article, in his Hiftory of 
the Peloponnefian war. No one great object is 
properly purfued, and kept in view; but his nar- 
ration is cut down into fmall pieces j his hiftory 
is divided by fummers and winters ; and we are 
every now and then leaving tranfaftions unfinifhed, 
and are hurried from place to place, from Athens 
to Sicily, from thence to Peloponnefus, to Cor- 
cyra, to Mitylene, that we may be told of what is 
going on in all thefe places. We have a great 
many disjointed parts, and fcattered limbs, which, 
with difficulty we collect into one body ; and 
through this faulty diftribution and management 
of his fubject, that judicious Hiftorian becomes 
more tirefome, and lefs agreeable than he would 
otherwife be. For thefe reafons he is feverely 

k^ -aWii. Ik yJtruya rr,: aszarruv ttj.0; «M'/;Aa av^Xox-zi^ yJj 'Suf.aMaiuct 
et; o Qf/MOTr/ros y^ dia^ofx? (/.wui; an ti? ip'moiTo x^ owujSjmj x.et7cn\tv?a.z 
:ty.x )C. 70 yg'.z^.vi y^ to Tsjwsw, ix. rr,<; lfj/icc<; >.a.Qi7v. 

Pol vs. Hilior. Prim. 

c 4 cenfured 

L E C T. 




: T * cenfured by one of the bed Critics of antiquity, 

Dionyfius of HalicarnafTus *. 

* The cenfure which Dionyfius pafTes upon Thucydides, is, 
in feveral articles, carried too far. He blames him for the 
choice of his fubjett, as not fufficiently fplendid and agreeable, 
and as abounding too much in crimes and melancholy events, 
on which he obferves that Thucydides loves to dwell. He is 
partial to Herodotus, whom, both for the choice and the con- 
duct of his fubje&, he prefers to the other Hiftorian. It is 
true, that the fubjecl of Thucydides wants the gaiety r.nd 
fplender of that of Herodotus; but it is not deficient in dignity. 
The Peloponnefian war was the conteft between two great rival 
powers, the Athenian and Lacedemonian Hates, for the empire 
of Greece. Herodotus loves to dwell on profperous incidents, 
and retains fomewhat of the amufmg manner of the antier.t 
poetical hiitorians. But Herodotus wrote to the Imagination. 
Thucydides writes to the Understanding. He was a grave re- 
Ceding man, well acquainted with human life; and the melan- 
choly events and cataftrophes, which he records, are often both 
the moll intereiling parts of hiflory, and the mod improving to 
the heart. 

The Critic's obfervations on the faulty diflribution which 
Thucydides makes of his fubjedt, are better founded, and 
his preference of Herodotus, in this refpeft, is not unjuft. — 
OascvoKiriS (/.m Tdi Jtyjow? axoXaSwi, H^oSqto; Si tcci; <aifioxcu<; Tm 
a; [ctyfjLctTcuV, yiytetui QuxvOiii; as~x(pr,<; xxi ^itTTrapaxoTvaOr/To;* ttoTdw* 
yup Xxtx to uvto Stpo; Jtj yjupuvx yiy.ujA.svuv tv hxtpopxti; Tenets, 
r^t.iT£>»=t; tk; <E7gGT«£ 'aspxZ.u, xxTuTwnw, erspuii owner on tuv xxrx t« 
avTo S=fo$ xeci ^etfiitnai ytytcfitetuv, i w\xiuy.-.^x Srj xx^xirip £ixo;, xcn 
$vaxohu{ toic di/Xtf^Evoi; 'ExpGcxohaQay.e.* Tv[Avi£r,xc GaxvSiSri [/.tx» 
v- .iicm XafecvJi ©cW,« 'woiro-ai [/.t^r t to iv orufMt* Ucoootu oi tx; 
zooT&xs xu.\ aovt Ei6Xt/ia; viroQtcrsif •apcnXc[A.ti'u, cvfdpuw iv au(/.x 
wsiromtttteu. With regard ^o Style, Dionyfius gives Thucydides 
the jult praife of energy and brevity ; but cenfures him, on 
many occafions, not without reafon, for harih and obfeure ez- 
preffion, deficient in fmoothnefs and eafe, 



The Hiftorian muft not indeed neglect chrono- 
logical order, with a view to render his narration 
agreeable. He muft give a diftinct account of 
the dates and of the coincidence of facts. But he 
is not under the neceffity of breaking off" always 
in the middle of tranfaClions, in order to inform 
us of what was happening eliewhere at the fame 
time. He difcovers no art, if he cannot form 
fome connection amon°: the affairs which he re- 
lates, fo as to introduce them in a proper train. 
He will foon tire the Reader, if he goes on re- 
cording, in ftrict chronological order, a multitude 
of feparate tranfacYions, connected by nothing elfe, 
but their happening at the fame time. 

Though the hiftory of Herodotus be of greater 
compafs than that of Thucydides, and comprehend 
a much greater variety of diffimilar parts, he has 
been more fortunate in joining them together, and 
digefling them into order. Hence he is a more 
pleafing writer, and gives a ftronger imprefiion 
of his fubject j though in judgment and accuracy, 
much inferior to Thucydides. With digreffions 
and epifodes he abounds ; but when thefe have 
any connection with the main fubject, and are in- 
ferred profefledly as epifodes, the unity of the 
whole is lefs violated by them, than by a broken 
and fcattered narration of the principal ftory. 
Among the Moderns, the Prefident Thuanus has, 
by attempting to make the hiftory of his own 
times too comprehenfive, fallen into the fame 



error, of loading the Reader with a great variety 
of unconnected facts, going on together in differ- 
ent parts of the world : an Hiflorian otherwife of 
great probity, candour, and excellent underftand- 
ing j but through this want of unity, more te- 
dious, and lefs interefting than he would other- 
wife have been. 





fter making fome obfervations on the con- l e c t, 


troverfy which has been often carried on con- 

cerning the comparative merit of the Antients and 
the Moderns, I entered, in the laft Lecture, on 
the confederation of Hiftorical Writing. The 
general idea of Hiftory is, a record of truth for 
the instruction of mankind. Hence arife the 
primary qualities required in a good Hiftorian, 
impartiality, fidelity, gravity, and dignity. What 
I principally confidered, was the unity which be- 
longs to this fort of Compofition ; the nature of 
which I have endeavoured to explain. 

I proceed next to obferve, that in order to 
fulfil the end of Hiftory, the Author muft ftudy 
to trace to their fprings the actions and events 
which he records. Two things are efpecially ne- 
cefiary for his doing this fuccefsfully -, a thorough 
acquaintance with human nature, and political 
knowledge, or acquaintance with government, 
5^ The 


L E C T. 

The former is neceffary to account for the conduct 
of individuals, and to give juft views of their cha- 
racter; the latter to account for the revolutions of 
government, and the operation of political caufes 
an public affairs. Both muft concur, in order to 
form a completely inftru&ive Hiftorian. 

With regard to the latter article, Political 
Knowledge, the antient Writers wanted fome ad- 
vantages which the Moderns enjoy j from whom, 
upon that account, we have a title to expect more 
accurate and precife information. The world, as 
I formerly hinted, was more fhut up in antient 
times, than it is now; there was then lefs com- 
munication among neighbouring Hates, and by 
eonfequence lefs knowledge of one another's af- 
fairs ; no intercourfe by eftablifhed pods, or by 
Ambaffadors refident at diftant courts. The 
knowledge, and materials of the antient Hif- 
ftorians, were thereby more limited and circum- 
icribed ; and it is to be obferved too, that they 
■wrote for their own countrymen only j they had 
no idea of writing for the inftruction of foreigners, 
whom they defpifed, or of the world in general j 
and hence, they are lefs attentive to convey all 
that knowledge with regard to domeftic policy, 
which we, in diftant times, would defire to have 
learned from them. Perhaps alfo, though in an- 
tient ages men were abundantly animated with the 
love of liberty, yet the full extent of the influence 
of government, and of political caufes, was nor 



then fo thoroughly fcrutinized, as it has been in 
modern times; when a longer experience of all 
the different modes of government has rendered 
men more enlightened and intelligent, with refpect 
to public affairs. 

To thefe reafons it is owing, that though the 
antient Hiftorians fet before us the particular facts 
which they relate, in a very diftin6r. and beautiful 
manner, yet fometimes they do not give us a clear 
view of all the political caufes, which affected the 
fituation of affairs of which they treat. From the 
Greek Hiftorians, we are able to form but an im- 
perfect notion, of the ftrength, the wealth, and 
the revenues of the different Grecian dates ; of 
the caufes of feveral of thofe revolutions that 
happened in their government; or of their fepa- 
rate connections and interfering interefts. In writ- 
ing the Hiftory of the Romans, Livy had lurely 
the mod ample field for difpiaying political know- 
ledge, concerning the rife of their greatnefs, and 
the advantages or defects of their government. 
Yet the inftrudtion in thefe important articles, 
which he affords, is not confiderable. An elegant 
Writer he is, and a beautiful relater of facts, if 
ever there was one; but by no means diftinguifhed 
for profoundnefs or penetration. Salluft, when 
writing the hiftory of a confpiracy againft the go- 
vernment, which ought to have been altogether a 
Political Hiftory, has evidently attended more to 
the elegance of narration, and the painting of 



characters, than to the unfolding of fecret caufes 
and fprings. Inftead of that complete informa- 
tion, which we would naturally have expe&ed 
from him, of the flate of parties in Rome, and 
of that particular conjuncture of affairs, which 
enabled fo defperate a profligate as Catiline to be- 
come fo formidable to government, he has given us 
little more than a general declamatory account of 
the luxury and corruption of manners in that age, 
compared with the fimplicity of former times. 

I by no means, however, mean to cenfure all 
the antient Hiftorians as defective in political in- 
formation. No Hiftorians can be more inftruc- 
tive than Thucydides, Polybius, and Tacitus. 
Thucydides is grave, intelligent, and judicious; 
always attentive to give very exact information 
concerning every operation which he relates ; and 
to {hew the advantages or difadvantages of every 
plan that was propofed and every meafure that 
was purfued. Polybius excels in comprehenfive 
political views, in penetration into great fyftems, 
and in his profound and diftinct knowledge of all 
military affairs. Tacitus is eminent for his know- 
ledge of the human heart ; is fentimental and re- 
fined in a high degree j conveys much inftruction 
with refpect to political matters, but more with 
refpect to human nature. 

But when we demand from the Hiftorian pro- 
found and inftructive views of his fubject, it is not 



meant that he fhould be frequently interrupting L Jt£ v 7* 
the courfe of his Hiftory, with his own reflections 
and fpeculations. He fhould give us all the in- 
formation that is necefiary for our fully understand- 
ing the affairs which he records. He fhould make 
us acquainted with the political constitution, the 
force, the revenues, the internal ftate of the coun- 
try of which he writes ; and with its interefts and 
connections in refpect of neighbouring countries. 
He fnould place us, as on an elevated ftation, 
whence we may have an extenfive profpect of all 
the caufes that co-operate in bringing forward the 
events which are related. But having put into our 
hands all the proper materials for judgment, he 
fhould not be too prodigal of his own opinions 
and reafonin^s. When an Hiftorian is much given 
to diflertation, and is ready to philofophife and 
fpecnlate on all that he records, a fufpicion natu- 
rally arifes, that he will be in hazard of adapting 
his narrative of facts to favour fome fyftem which 
he has formed to himfelf. It is rather by fair and 
judicious narration that Hiftory fhould inftruct us, 
than by delivering inftruflion in an avowed and 
direct manner. On fome occafions, when doubt- 
ful points require to be fcrutinized, or when fome 
great event is in agitation, concerning the caufes 
or circumftances of which mankind have been 
much divided, the narrative may be allowed to 
Hand ftill for a little ; the Hiftoi ian may appear, 
and may with propriety enter into fume weighty 
difcuffion. But he muft take care not to cloy his 



Historical writing. 

L xxxvi T * ^ eac ^ ers with f uc h difcuffions, by repeating them 
too often. 

When obfervations are to be made concerning 
human nature in general, or the peculiarities of 
certain characters, if the Hiftorian can artfully in- 
corporate fuch obfervations with his narrative, they 
will have a better effect than when they are deli- 
vered as formal detached reflections. For inftance ; 
In the life of Agricola, Tacitus, fpeaking of Domi- 
tian's treatment of Agricola, makes this obfervation: 
< f Proprium humani ingenii, eft, odifTe quern 
•' 1 - feris *.'* The obfervation is juft and well 
applied -, but the form, in which it Hands, is ab- 
iiract and philofophical. A thought of the fame 
kind has a finer effect elfewhere in the fame Hifto- 
rian, when fpeaking of the jealoufies which Ger- 
manicus knew- to be entertained againft him by 
Livia and Tiberius : tc Anxius," fays he, " occul- 
" tis in fe patrui aviasque odiis, quorum caufas 
fi acriores quia iniquas f." Here a profound 
moral obfervation is made; but it is made, with- 
out the appearance of making it in form ; it is 
introduced as a part of the narration, in afligning 
a reafon for the anxiety of Germanicus. We have 
another inftance of the fame kind, in the account 

* " It belongs to human nature, to hate the man whom you 
*' have injured," 

f " Uneafy in his mind, on account of the concealed hatred 
" entertained againft him by his uncle and grandmother, which 
t? was the more bitter bccaufe the caufe of it was unjuft." 

6 which 


which he gives of a mutiny raifed againft Rufus, 
who was a " Prasfectus Caftrorum," on account 
of the fevere labour which he impofed on the fol- 
diers. " Quippe Rufus, diu manipulates, dein cen- 
" turio, mox caftris prasfectus, antiquam duramque 
< f militiam revocabat, vetus operis & laboris, & eo 
<f immitior quia toleraverat *." There was room 
for turning this into a general obfervation, that they 
who have been educated and hardened in toils, are 
commonly found to be the moffc fevere in requiring 
the like toils from others. But the manner in 
which Tacitus introduces this fentiment as a ftroke 
in the character of Rufus, gives it much more life 
and fpirit. This Hiftorian has a particular talent 
of intermixing after this manner, with the courfe 
of his narrative, many (Inking fentiments and ufe- 
ful obfervations. 

Let us next proceed to confider the proper 
qualities of Hiftorical Narration. It is obvious, 
that on the manner of narration much mud depend, 
as the firft notion of Hiftory is the recital of paft 
facts ; and how much one mode of recital may be 
preferable to another, we iliall foon be convinced, 
by thinking of the different effects, which the fame 

* " For Rufus, who had long been a common foldier, after- 
<c wards a Centurion, and at length a general officer, reftored 
" the fevere military difcipline of antient times. Grown old 
" amidft toils and labours, he was the more rigid in imposing 
" th<-m, becaufe he had been accuftomed to bear them." 

vol, iu» d (lory, 


L xxxvl' ft° r y> when told by two different perfons, is found 
fiL.... v . .,.,» to produce. 

The fir ft virtue of Hiftorical Narration, is 
Clearnefs, Order, and due Connection. To attain 
this, the Hiftorian muft be completely mafter of 
his fubjectj he muft fee the whole as at one view; 
and comprehend the chain and dependence of all its 
parts, that he may introduce every thing in its pro- 
per place ; that he may lead us fmoothly along the 
track of affairs which are recorded, and may always 
give us the fatisfaction of feeing how one event 
arifes out of another. Without this, there can be 
neither pleafure nor inftruction, in reading Hiftory. 
Much for this end will depend on the obfervance 
of that unity in the general plan and conduct, 
which, in the preceding Lecture, I recommended* 
Much too will depend on the proper management 
of tranfitions, which forms one of the chief orna- 
ments of this kind of writing, and is one of the 
mod difficult in execution. Nothing tries an 
Hiftorian's abilities more, than fo to lay his train 
beforehand, as to make us pafs naturally and 
agreeably from one part of his fubject to another; 
to employ no clumfy and awkward junctures; and 
to contrive ways and means of forming fome union 
among tranfactions, which feem to be molt widely 
ieparated from one another. 

In the next place, as Hiftory is a very dignified 
fpecies of Compofuion, gravity muft always be 



maintained in the narration. There muft be no 
meannefs nor vulgarity in the flyle ; no quaint, nor 
colloquial phrafesj no affectation of pertnef-, or 
of wit. The fmart, or the fneering manner of 
telling a ftory, is inconfiftent with the hiftorical 
character. 1 do not fay, that an Hiftorian is never 
to let himfeif down. He may fometimes do ic 
with propriety, in order to diverfify the ftrain of 
his narration, which, if it be perfectly uniform, is 
apt to become tirefome. But he fhould be care- 
ful never to defcend too far ; and, on occafions 
where a light or ludicrous anecdote is proper to be 
recorded, it is generally better to throw it into a 
note, than to hazard becoming too familiar by in- 
troducing it into the body of the work. 

But an Hiftorian may poffefs thefe qualities of 
being perfpicuous, diftincT, and grave, and may 
notwithstanding be a dull Writer : in which cafe, 
we mail reap little benefit from his labours. We 
fhall read him without pleafure ; or, mod pro- 
bably, we fhall foon give over reading him at all. 
He muft therefore ftudy to render his narration 
intereftingj which is the quality that chiefly dis- 
tinguishes a Writer of genius and eloquence. 

Two things are efpecially conducive to this ; the 
firft is, a juft medium in the conduct of narration, 
between a rapid or crowded recital of facts, and 
a prolix detail. The former embarrafTes, and the 
latter tires us. An Hiftorian that would intereft 

D 2 US, 



us, mud know when to be concife, and where he 
ought to enlarge; palling concifely over flight and 
unimportant events, but dwelling on fuch as are 
ftriking and considerable in their nature, or preg- 
nant with confequences ; preparing beforehand our 
attention to them, and bringing them forth into 
the mod full and confpicuous light. The next 
thing he mud attend to, is a proper felection of 
the circumftances belonging to thofe events which 
he choofes to relate fully. General facts make a 
flight impreffion on the mind. It is by means of 
circumftances and particulars properly chofen, that 
a narration becomes interefting and affecting to the 
Reader. Thefe give life, body, and colouring to 
the recital of facts, and enable us to behold them 
as prefent, and paffing before our eyes. It is this 
employment of circumftances, in Narration, that 
is properly termed Hiftorical Painting. 

In all thefe virtues of Narration, particularly in 
this laft, of picturefquedefcriptive Narration, feveral 
of the Antient Hiftorians eminently excel. Hence, 
the pleafure that is found in reading Herodotus, 
Thucydides, Xenophon, Livy, Salluft, and Ta- 
citus. They are all confpicuous for the art of 
Narration. Herodotus is, at all times, an agree- 
able Writer, and relates every thing with that 
naivete and fimplicity of manner, which never fails 
to intereft the Reader. Though the manner of 
Thucydides be more dry and harfh, yet, on great 
occafions, as when he is giving an account of the 



Plague of Athens, the Siege of Platsea, the Sedi- 
tion in Corcyra, the Defeat of the Athenians in 
Sicily, he difplays a very ftrong and mafterly power 
of defcription. Xenophon's Cyropaedia, and his 
Anabafis, or Retreat of the Ten Thoufand, are 
extremely beautiful. The circumftances are finely 
felected, and the narration is eafy and engaging; 
but his Hellenics, or Continuation of the Hiftory 
of Thucydides, is a much inferior work. Salluft's 
Art of Hiftorical Painting in his Catilinarian, but, 
more efpecially, in his Jugurthine War, is well 
known ; though his Style is liable to cenfure, as 
too ftudied and affected. 

Livy is more unexceptionable in his manner; 
and is excelled by no Hiftorian whatever in the 
Art of Narration : fe'/eral remarkable examples 
might be given from him. His account, for in- 
ftance, of the famous defeat of the Roman Army 
by the Samnites, at the Furcae Caudinas, in the 
beginning of the ninth book, affords one of the 
moil beautiful exemplifications of Hiftorical Paint- 
ing, that is any where to be met with. We have 
firft, an exact defcription of the narrow pafs between 
two mountains,' into which the enemy had decoyed 
the Romans. When they find themfelves caught, 
and no hope of efcape left, we are made to fee, 
firft, their aftonifhment, next, their indignation, 
and then, their dejection, painted in the mod lively 
manner, by fuch circumftances and actions as were 
natural to perfons in their fituation. The reftlefs 

E> 3 and 


and unquiet manner in which they pafs the night ; 
the confultations of the Samnites ; the various 
meaiures propofed to be taken ; the mefTages be- 
tween the two armies, all heighten the fcene. At 
length, in the morning, the' Confute return to the 
Camp, and inform them that they could receive no 
other terms but that of furrendering their arms, 
and paffing under the yoke, which was confidered 
as the laft mark of ignominy for a conquered army. 
Part of what then follows, I fhall give in the Au- 
thor's own words. tc Redintegravit luctum in 
li caftris confulum adventus; ut vix ab iis abftine- 
rent manus, quorum temeritate in eum locum 
" dedu6li eflent. Alii alios intueri, contemplari 
<{ arma mox tradenda, & inermes futuras dex- 
< c tras ; proponere fibimet ipfi ante oculos, jugum 
<c hoftile, et ludibria victoris, et vultus fuperbos, 
" et per armatos inermium iter. Inde fsedi ag- 
<c minis miferabilem viam j per fociorum urbes 
<c reditum in patriam ac parentes quo fsepe ipfi 
11 triumphantes veniflent. Se folos fine vulnere, 
" fine ferro, fine acie victos j fibi non flringere 
<c licuifie gladios, non manum cum hofte confe- 
" rere j fibi nequicquam arma, nequicquam vires, 
ff nequicquam animos datos. Ha2c frementibus, 
* f hora fatalis ignominias advenir. Jamprimum, 
" cum fmgulis veftimentis, inermes extra vallum 
" abire juffi. Turn a confulibus abire liclores juffi, 
" paludamentaque detracta. Tantam hoc inter 
" ipfos, qui paulo ante eos dedendos, lacerandof- 
" que cenfuerant, miferationem fecit, ut fuasquifqu* 

<f condition^ 



rf conditionis oblitus, ab ilia deformatione tante 
* c majeftacis, velut ab nefando fpectaculo, averte- 
<c ret oculos. Primi confutes, prope feminudi, 
" fub jugum miffi *," &c. The reft of the ftory, 

* " The arrival of the Confuls in the camp, wrought up 
" their paffions to fuch a degree, that they could fcarcely abftain 
*? from laying violent hands on them, as by their rafhnefs they 
«.' had been brought into this fituation. They began to look 
" on one another ; to caft a melancholy eye on their arms, 
*' which were now to be furrendered, and on their right hands, 
** which were to become defencelefs. The yoke under whick 
41 they were to pafs ; the feoffs of the conquerors ; and their 
" haughty looks, when, difarmed and dripped, they fhould be 
" led through the hofiile lines-; all rofe before their eyes. They 
*' then looked forward to the fad journey which awaited them, 
t{ when they were to pafs as a vanquished and difgraced army 
" through the territories of their allies, by whom they had 
" often been beheld returning in triumph to their families and 
" native land. They alone, they muttered to one another, 
* c without an engagement, without a fingle blow, had been 
*' conquered. To their hard fate it fell, never to have had it 
*' in their power to draw a fword, or to look an enemy in 
,l the face ; to them only, arms, ftrength, and courage, had 
" been given in vain. While they were thus g'ving vent to 
" their indignation, the fatal moment of their ignominy ar- 
*' rived. Firft, they were all commanded to come forth from 
*' the camp, without armour, and in a fingle garment. Next,, 
" orders were given, that the Confuls mould be left without 
*' their Lienors, and that they fhould be dripped of their robes. 
" Such commiferation did this affront excite among them, who, 
*' but a little before, had been for delivering up thofe very 
" Confuls t;o the enemy, and for putting them to death, that 
" every one forgot his own condition, and turned his eyes afide 
" from this infamous difgrace, fuffered by the confular dignity, 
" as from a fpedacle which was too deteftable to be beheld. 
" The Confuls, almoft half naked, were firft made to pafs under 
«< the yoke," &c. 

d 4 which 


L xxx T ' which it would be too long to infert, is carried on 
with the fame beauty, and full of pi&urefque cir- 
cumftances *. 

Tacitus is another Author eminent for Hifto- 
rical Painting, though in a manner altogether dif- 
ferent from that of Livy. Livy's defcriptions are 
more full, more plain, and natural j thofe of Ta- 
citus confift in a few bold ftrokes. He felects one 
or two remarkable circumftances, and fets them 

* The defcription which Casfar gives of the confternaticn 
occafionedfin his camp, by the accounts which were fprejd 
among his troops, of the ferocity, the fize, and the courage 
of the Germans, affords an inftance of Hiftorical Painting, 
executed in a fimple manner ; and, at the fame time, exhibit- 
ing a natural and lively fcence : " Dum paucos dies ad Vefon- 
" tionem moratur, ex percundtatione noflrorum, vocibufque 
" Gallorum ac mercatorum, qui ingenti magnitudine corporum 
'* Germanos, incredibili virtute, atque exercitatione in armis 
*' effe prasdicabant ; faspe numero (efe cum iis congreffos, ne 
" vultum quidem, atque aciem oculorum ferre potuiffe ; tantus 
" fubito terror omnem exercitum occupavit, ut non mediocri- 
" ter omnium mentes animofque perturbaret. Hie primum 
** ortus eft a tribunis militum, ac praefeflis, reliquifque qui ex 
** urbe, amicitias caufa, Casfarem fecuti, fuum periculum mi- 
*' ferabantur, quod non magnum in re militari ufum habebant ; 
'* quorum alius, alia, caufa illata quam fibi ad proficifcendurn 
** neceffariam effe diceret, petebat ut ejus voluntate difcedere 
" liceret. Nonnulli pudore addudti, ut timoris fufpicionem 
*' vitarent, remanebant. Hi neque vultum fingere, neque in- 
" terdum lacrymas tenere poterant. Abditi in tabernaculis, 
•' aut fuum fatum quserebantur, aut cum familiaribus fuis, 
" commune periculum miferabantur. Vulgo, totis caftris tefta- 
" menta obfignabantur." Ds. Bell. Gall. L. I. 

8 * before 


before us in a ftrong, and, generally, in a new and 
uncommon light. Such is the following picture 
of the fituation of Rome, and of the Emperor 
Galba, when Otho was advancing againft him: 

" Agebatur hue illuc Galba, vario turbse fluctu- 


iC antis impulfu, completis undique bafilicis et 
u templis, lugubri profpectu. Neque populi aut 
<c plebis ulla vox ; fed attoniti vultus, et converfe 
" ad omnia aures. Non tumultus, non quies ; 
<e fed quale magni metus, et magnse ir£, filen- 
cc tium eft *." No image, in any Poet, is more 
ftrong and expreffive than this lad ftroke of the 
defcription : " Non tumultus, non quies, fed 
" quale," &c. This is a conception of the fub- 
lime kind, and difcovers high genius. Indeed, 
throughout all his work, Tacitus mows the hand 
of a mafter. As he is profound in reflection, fo 
he is finking in defcription, and pathetic in fenti- 
ment. The Philofopher 5 the Poet, and the Hifto- 
rian, all meet in him. Though the period of 
which he writes may be reckoned unfortunate for 
an Hiflorian, he has made it afford us many inte- 
refting exhibitions of human nature. The rela- 

* t( Galba was driven to and fro by the tide of the multi- 
" tude, moving him from place to place. The temples and 
" public buildings were rilled with crowds of a difmal appear- 
*' ance. No clamours were heard, either from the citizens, or 
f* from the rabble. Their countenances were filled with con- 
" fternation ; their ears were employed in likening with anxiety. 
" It was not a tumult ; it was not quietnefs ; it was the filence 
" of terrorj and of wrath." 



L ^ c T - tions which he gives of the deaths of feveral emi~ 

XXXVI. '~ > 

v^-^^-j nent perfonages, are as affecting as the deepeft 
tragedies. He paints with a glowing pencil ; and 
poffeffes, beyond all Writers, the talent of paint- 
ing, not to the imagination merely, but to the 
heart. With many of the mod diftinguifhed 
beauties, he is, at the fame time, not a perfect 
model for Hiftory; and fuch as have formed 
themfelves upon Kim, have feldom been fuccefs- 
fcl. He is to be admired, rather than imitated. 
In his reflections, he is too refined; in his ftyle, 
too concife, fometimes quaint and affected, often 
abrupt and obfcure. Hiftory feems to require a 
more natural, flowing, and popular manner. 

The Antients employed one embellimment of 
Hiftory which the Moderns have laid afide, I 
mean Orations, which, on weighty occafions, 
they put into the mouths of fome of their chief 
perfonages. By means of thefe, they diverfified 
their hiftory ; they conveyed both moral and po- 
litical inftruction ; and, by the oppofite arguments 
which were employed, they gave us a view of the 
fentiments of different parties. Thucydides was 
the firft who introduced this method. The ora- 
tions with which his Hiftory abounds, and thofe 
too of fome other Greek and Latin Hiftorians, 
are among the moft valuable remains which we 
have of Antient Eloquence. How beautiful foever 
they are, it may be much queftioned, I think, 
whether they find a proper place in Hiftory. I 



am rather inclined to think, that they are unfuit- 
able to it. For they form a mixture which is 
unnatural in Hiftory, of fiction with truth. We 
know, that thefe Orations are entirely of the 
Author's own compofition, and that he has intro- 
duced fome celebrated perfon haranguing in a pub- 
lic place, purely that he might have an opportunity 
of fhowing his own eloquence, or delivering his 
own fentiments, under the name of that perfon. 
This is a fort of poetical liberty which does not 
fuit the gravity of Hiftory, throughout which, an 
air of the fT.ricr.eft truth fhould always reign. Ora- 
tions may be an embellilhment to Hiftory ; fuch. 
might alfo Poetical Compofitions be, introduced 
under the name of fome of the perfonages men- 
tioned in the Narration, who were known to have 
pofTefTed poetical talents. But neither the one, 
nor the other, finds a proper place in Hiftory. 
Inftead of inferting formal Orations, the method 
adopted by later Writers feems better and more 
natural •, that of the Hiftorian, on fome great 
occafion, delivering, in his own perfon, the fen- 
timents and reafonings of the oppofite parties, or 
the fubftance of what was underftood to be fpoken 
in fome Public Aflembly ; which he may do with- 
out the liberty of fiction. 

The drawing of characters is one of the moft 
fplendid, and, at the fame time, one of the mod 
difficult ornaments of Hiftorical Compofition. 
For characters are generally conftdered, as pro- 



h e c t. fefled exhibitions of fine writing: and an Hik 

XXXVI. . 6 ' . 

torian, who feeks to fhine in them, is frequently 
in danger of carrying refinement to excefs, from a 
defire of appearing very profound and penetrating. 
He brings together fo many contracts, and fubtile 
oppofitions of qualities, that we are rather dazzled 
with fparkling expreffions, than entertained with 
any clear conception of a human character. A 
Writer who would characterife in an inftructive 
and mafterly manner, fhould be fimple in his ftyle, 
and fhould avoid all quaintnefs and affectation j ac 
the fame time, not contenting himfelf with giving 
us general outlines only, but defcending into thofe 
peculiarities which mark a character, in its mod 
ftrong and diftinctive features. The Greek Hif- 
torians fornetimes give eulogiums, but rarely draw 
full and profeffed characters. The two Antient 
Authors who have laboured this part of Hiftori- 
cal Compofition moft, are Sallufl and Tacitus. 

As Hiftory is a fpecies of Writing defigned for 
the inftru&ion of mankind, found morality fhould 
always reign in it. Both in defcribing characters, 
and in relating tranfactions, the Author fhould 
always fhow himfelf to be on the fide of virtue. 
To deliver moral inftruction in a formal manner, 
Falls not within his provinces but both as a good 
man, and as a good Writer, we expect, that he 
fhould difcover fentiments of refpect for virtue, 
and of indignation at flagrant vice. To appear 
neutral and indifferent with refpect to good and 



bad characters, and to affect a crafty and political, 
rather than a moral turn of thought, will, befides 
other bad effects, derogate greatly from the weight 
of Hiflorical Compofirion, and will render the 
drain of it much more cold and uninterefting. 
We are always moft interefted in the tranfac- 
tions which are going on, when our fympachy is 
awakened by the ftory, and when we become en- 
gaged in the fate of the aflors. But this effect: 
can never be produced by a Writer, who is de- 
ficient in fenfibility and moral feeling. 

As the obfervations which I have hitherto made, 
have moftly refpected the Antient Hiftorians, it 
may naturally be 'expected that I fhould alio take 
fome notice of the Moderns who have excelled in 
this kind of Writing. 

The country in Europe, where the Hiflorical 
Genius has, in latter ages, 'fhone forth with moft 
luftre, beyond doubt, is Italy. The national 
character of the Italians feems favourable to it. 
They were always diftinguifhed as an acute, pene- 
trating, reflecting people, remarkable for political 
fagacity and wifdom, and who early addicted them- 
felves to the arts of Writing. Accordingly, foon 
after the reftoration of letters, Machiavel, Guic- 
ciardin, Davila, Bentivoglio, Father Paul, became 
highly confpicuous for hiftorical merit. They all 
appear to have conceived very juft ideas of Hif- 
tory - 3 and are agreeable, inftructive, and intereft- 




L E C 1 

ing Writers. In their manner of narration, they 
are formed upon the Antients ; fome of them, as 
Bentivoglio and Guicciardin, have, in imitation of 
them, introduced Orations into their Hiftory. In 
the profoundnefs and diftinctnefs of their political 
views, they may, perhaps, be efteemed to have 
furpaiTed the Antients. Critics have, at the fame 
time, obferved fome imperfections in each of 
them. Machiavel, in his Hiftory of Florence, is 
not altogether fo interefting as one would expect 
an author of his abilities to be; either through 
his own defect, or through fome unhappinefs in 
his fubject, which led him into a very minute de- 
tail of the intrigues of one city. Guicciardin, at 
all times fenfible and profound, is taxed for dwell- 
ing fo Ions on the Tufcan affairs as to be fome- 
times tedious ; a defect which is alfo imputed, oc- 
cafionally, to the judicious Father Paul. Benti- 
voglio, in his excellent Hiftory of the Wars of 
Flanders, is accufed for approaching to the florid 
and pompous manner: and Davila, though one of 
the moft agreeable and entertaining Relaters, has 
manifeftly this defect, of fpreading a fort of uni- 
formity over all his characters, by repreienting 
them as guided too regularly by political intereft. 
But, although fome fuch objections may be made 
to thefe Authors, they deferve, upon the whole, 
to be placed in the ftrfb rank of Modern Hiftorical 
Writers. The Wars of Flanders, written in Latin 
by Famianus Strada, is a book of fome note; but 
is not entitled to the fame reputation as the works 



of the other Hiftorians I have named. Strada is *£%£??' 
too violently partial to the Spanifh caufe ; and too 
open a Panegyrift of the Prince of Parma. He 
is florid, diffufe, and an affected imitator of the 
manner and ftyle of Livy. 

Among the French, as there has been much 
good Writing in many kinds, fo alio in the Hif-, ' 
torical. That ingenious nation, who have done 
fo much honour to Modern Literature, poffefs, 
in an eminent degree, the talent of Narration. 
Many of their later Hiftorical Writers are fpirit- 
ed, lively, and agreeable; and fome of them not 
deficient in profoundnefs and penetration. They 
have not, however, produced any fuch capital 
Hiftorians as the Italians whom I mentioned 

Our IQand, till within thefe few years, was 
not eminent for its hiftorical productions. Early, 
indeed, Scotland acquired reputation by means 
of the celebrated Buchanan. He is an elegant 
Writer, claftlcal in his Latinity, and agreeable 
both in narration and defcription. But one can- 
not but fufpect him to be more attentive to ele- 
gance, than to accuracy. Accuftomed to form 
his political notions wholly upon the plans of an- 
tient governments, the feudal fyftem feems never 
to have entered into his thoughts ; and as this was 
the bafis of the Scottifh conftitution, his political 
views are, of courfe, inaccurate and imperfect. 



When he comes to the tranfactions of his own 
times, there is fuch a change in his manner of 
writing, and fuch an afperity in his ftyle, that, on 
what fide foever the truth lies with regard to thofe 
dubious and long controverted facts which make 
the fubject of that part of his work, it is impoffible 
to clear him from being deeply tinctured with the 
fpirit of party. 

Among the older Englifh Hiftorians, the mod 
confiderable is Lord Clarendon. Though he writes 
as the profeffed apologift of one fide, yet there ap- 
pears more impartiality in his relation of facts, 
than might at firft be expected. A great fpirit of 
virtue and probity runs through his work. He 
maintains all the dignity of an Hiftorian. His 
fentences, indeed, are often too long, and his ge- 
neral manner is prolix; but his ftyle, on the whole, 
is manly j and his merit, as an Hiftorian, is much 
beyond mediocrity. Bifliop Burnet is lively and 
perfpicuous; but he has hardly any other hiftorical 
merit. His ftyle is too carelefs and familiar for 
Hiftory ; his characters are, indeed, marked with 
a bold and a ftrong hand ; but they are generally 
light and fatirical ; and he abounds fo much in 
little ftories concerning himfelf, that he refembles 
more a Writer of Memoirs than of Hiftory. 
During a long period, Englifh Hiftorical Authors 
feemed to aim at nothing higher than an exact 
relation of facts j till of late the diftinguifhed 
names of Hume, Robertfon, and Gibbon, have 




raifed the Britidi character, in this fpecies of L E c T - 


Writing, to high reputation and dignity. 

I observed, in the preceding Lecture, that 
Annals, Memoirs, and Lives, are the inferior 
kinds of Hiftorical Compofition. It will be pro- 
per, before difmifling this fubject, to make a few 
obfervations upon them. Annals are commonly 
underftood to fignify a collection of facts, digeited 
according to chronological order j rather ferving 
for the materials of Hiftory, than afpiring to the 
name of Hiftory themfelves. All that is required, 
therefore, in a Writer of fuch Annals, is to be 
faithful, diftinct, and complete. 

Memoirs denote a fort of Compofition, in 
which an Author does not pretend to give full 
information of all the facts reflecting the period 
of which he writes, but only to relate what he 
himfelf had accefs to know, or what he was con- 
cerned in, or what illuftrates the conduct of fome 
perfon, or the circumftances of fome tranfaction, 
which he chufes for his fubject. From a Writer 
of Memoirs, therefore, is not expected the fame 
profound refearch, or enlarged information, as 
from a Writer of Hiftory. He is not fubject to 
the fame laws of unvarying dignity and gravity. 
He may talk freely of himfelf; he may defcend 
into the mod familiar anecdotes. What is chiefly 
required of him is, that he be fprightly and in- 
terefting j and efpecially, that he inform us of 

vol. nr. e things 


l e c t. things that are ufeful and curious : that he convey 


t_ ^ - » to us Tome fort of knowledge worth the acquiring! 
This is a fpecies of Writing very bewitching to 
fuch as love to write concerning themfelves, and 
conceive every trania&ion, in which they had a 
lhare, to be of fingular importance. There is no 
. wonder, therefore, that a nation fo fprightly as the 
French, mould, for two centuries pail, have been 
pouring forth a whole flood of Memoirs ; the 
greateil part of which are little more than agree- 
able trifles. 

Some, however, mud be excepted from this 
general character j two in particular; the Memoirs 
of the Cardinal de Retz, and thofe of the Duke 
of Sully. From Retz's Memoirs, befides the 
pleafure of agreeable and lively narration, we may 
derive alfo much instruction, and much knowledge 
of human nature. Though his politics be often 
too fine fpun, yet the Memoirs of a profefTed fac- 
tious leader, fuch as the Cardinal was, wherein he 
draws both his own character, and that of feveral 
great perfonages of his time, fo fully, cannot be 
read by any perfon of good fenfe without benefit. 
The Memoirs of the Duke of Sully, in the ftate 
in which they are now given to the Public, have 
great merit, and deferve to be mentioned with 
particular praife. No Memoirs approach more 
nearly to the ufefulnefs, and the dignity of a full 
legitimate Hiftory. They have this peculiar ad- 
vantage, of giving us a beautiful difplay of two of 



the moft illuftrious characters which hiftory pre- 
fents ; Sully himfelf, one of the ableft and moft 
incorrupt minifters, and Henry IV. one of the 
greateft and moft amiable Princes of modern, 
times. I know few books more full of virtue, 
and of good fenfe, than Sully's Memoirs; few, 
therefore, more proper to form both the heads and 
the hearts of fuch as are defigned for public bud- 
nefs, and action, in the world. 

Biography, or the Writing of Lives, is a 
very uierul kind of Compofition ; lefs formal and 
ftately than Hiftory ; but to the bulk of Readers, 
perhaps, no lefs inftru&ive ; as it affords them the 
opportunity of feeing the characters and tempers, 
the virtues and failings of eminent men fully dif- 
played ; and admits them into a more thorough 
and intimate acquaintance with fuch perfons, than 
Hiftory generally allows. For a Writer of Lives 
may defcend, with propriety, to minute circum- 
ftances, and familiar incidents. It is expected of 
him, that he is to give the private, as well as the 
public life, of the perfon whofe actions he records j 
nay, it is from private life, from familiar, do- 
meftic, and feemingly trivial occurrences, that we 
often receive moft light into the real character. 
In this fpecies bf Writing, Plutarch has no fmall 
merit; and to him we Hand indebted for much of 
the knowledge that we poflefs, concerning feveral 
of the moft eminent perfonages of antiquity. Llis 
matter is, indeed, better than his manner ; as he 
e 2 cannot 


L xrx° T " cannot ^ a y c ^' im t0 an y peculiar beauty or elegance. 

^ ..„ „. His judgment too, and his accuracy, have fome- 
times been taxed ; but whatever defefts of this 
kind he may be liable to, his Lives of Eminent 
Men will always be confidered as a valuable trea- 
fure of inftruction. He is remarkable for being 
one of the mod humane Writers of all antiquity j 
lefs dazzled than many of them are, with the ex- 
ploits of valour and ambition ; and fond of dis- 
playing his great men to us, in the more gentle 
lights of retirement and private life. 

I cannot conclude the fubject of Hiftory, 
without taking notice of a very great improvement 
which has, of late years, begun to be introduced 
into Hiftorical Compofition ; I mean, a more 
particular attention than was formerly given to 
laws, cuftoms, commerce, religion, literature, 
and every other thing that tends to mow the fpiric 
and genius of nations. Ic is now underftood to 
be the bufmefs of an able Hiftorian to exhibit 
manners, as well as facts and events ; and af- 
iuredly, whatever difplays the ftate and life of 
mankind, in different periods, and illuftrates the 
progrefs of the human mind, is more ufeful and 
intereftins than the detail of fie^es and battles. 
The perfon, to whom we are moffc indebted for 
the introduction of this improvement into Hiftory, 
is the celebrated M, Voltaire, whofe genius has 
fhone with fuch furprifmg luftre, in fo many diffe- 
rent parts of literature. His Age of Louis XIV. 



was one of the firft great productions in this L ^ c J. 

* _, XXXVI. 

taftej and foon drew throughout all Europe, that ^.^^^.^ 
general attention, and received that high approba- 
tion, which fo ingenious and eloquent a produc- 
tion merited. His Efiay on the general Hiftory 
of Europe, fince the days of Charlemagne, is not 
to be confidered either as a Hiftory, or the proper 
Plan of an Hiftorical Work; but only as a feries 
of obfervations on the chief events that have hap- 
pened throughout feveral centuries, and on the 
changes that fucceffively took place in the fpirit 
and manners of different nations. Though, in 
fome dates and facts, it may, perhaps, be inaccu- 
rate, and is tinged with thole particularities which 
unhappily diftinguifh Voltaire's manner of think- 
ing on religious fubjects, yet it contains fo many 
enlarged and instructive views, as juftly to merit 
the atention of all who either read or write the 
Hiftory of thofe ages. 




A s 

Hiflory is both a very dignified fpecies of 
Compofition, and, by the regular form which 
it afiumes, falls directly under the laws of Criti- 
cifm, I difcourfed of it fully in the two preceding 
Lectures, The remaining fpecies of Compofition, 
in Profe, afford lefs room for critical obfervation. 

Philosophical Writing, for inftance, will not 
lead us into any long difcuffion. As the profeffed 
object of Philofophy is to convey inftruction, and 
as they who ftudy it are fuppofed to do fo for in- 
itruttion, not for entertainment, the ftyle, the 
form, and drefs of fuch Wiitings, are lefs mate- 
rial objects. They are objects, however, that 
mult not be wholly neglected. He who attempts 
to inflrqct mankind, without ftudying, at the fame 
time, to engage their attention, arid to intered 
them in his fubject by his manner of exhibiting it, 



is not likely to prove fuccefsful. The fame truths, ^ JLS-iT' 


and reafonings, delivered in a dry and cold man- v— y*— j 
ner, or with a proper meafure of elegance and 
beauty, will make very different impreflions on 
the minds of men. 

It is manifeft, that every Philofophical Writer 
mult ftudy the utmoft perfpicuity : and, by reflect- 
ing on what was formerly delivered on the fubjeft 
of perfpicuity, with refpect both to fingle words, 
and the construction of Sentences, we may be 
convinced that this is a ftudy which demands con- 
fiderable attention to the rules of Style, and good 
Writing. Beyond mere perfpicuity, ftrict accu- 
racy and precifion are required in a Philofophical 
Writer. He muft employ no words of .uncertain 
meaning, no loofe nor indeterminate expreffions; 
and mould avoid ufing words which are feemingly 
fynonymous, without carefully attending to the 
variation which they make upon the idea. 

To be clear then and precife, is one requisite 
which we have a title to demand from every Phi- 
lofophical Writer. He may poflefs this quality, 
and be at the fame time a very dry Writer. He 
mould therefore ftudy fome degree of embellish- 
ment, in order to render his Compofition pleafing 
and graceful. One of the moll agreeable, and 
one of the mod ufeful embellifhments which a 
Philofopher can employ, confifts in illuftrations 
taken from hiftorical facts, and the characters of 
e 4 men, 



men. All moral and political fubjefts naturally 
afford fcope for thefe; and wherever there is room 
for employing them, they feldom fail of producing 
a happy effect. They diverfify the Compofition; 
they relieve the mind from the fatigue of mere rea- 
foning, and at the fame time raife more full con- 
viction than any reafonings produce: for they take 
Philofophy out of the abftracl:, and give weight to 
Speculation, by (hewing its connection with real 
life, and the actions of mankind. 

Philosophical Writing admits befides of a 
poli filed, a neat, and elegant flyle. It admits of 
Metaphors, Comparifons, and all the calm Figures 
of Speech, by which an Author may convey his 
fenfe to the underftanding with clearnefs and force, 
at the fame time that he entertains the imagination. 
He mull take great care, however, that all his or- 
naments be of the chafteit kind, never partaking 
of the florid or the tumid; which is fo unpardon- 
able in a profefled Philofopher, that it is much 
better for him to err on the fide of naked fimpli- 
city, than on that of too much ornament. Some 
of the Antients, as Plato and Cicero, have left us 
Philofophical Treatifes compofed with much ele- 
gance and beauty. Seneca has been long and juftly 
cenfured for the affectation that appears in his Style. 
He is too fond of a certain brilliant and fparkhng 
manner ; of antithefes and quaint fentences. It 
cannot be denied, at the fame time, that he often 
expreffes himfelf with much livelinefs and force; 



though his Style, upon the whole, is far from de- 
ferving imitation. In Englifh, Mr. Locke's cele- 
brated Treatife on Human Understanding, may 
be pointed out as a model, on the one hand, of the 
greatest clearnefs and diftinctnefs of Philofophical 
Style, with very little approach to ornament: 
Lord Shaftfbury's Writings, on the other hand, 
exhibit Philofophy dreffed up with all the orna- 
ment which it can admit j perhaps with more than 
is perfectly fuited to it. 

Philosophical Compofition fometimes afTumes 
a form, under which it mingles more with works 
of tafte, when carried on in the way of Dialogue 
and Conversation. Under this form the Antients 
have given us fome of their chief Philofophical 
Works ; and feveral of the Moderns have endea- 
voured to imitate them. Dialogue Writing may 
be executed in two ways, either as direct conver- 
sation, where none but the Speakers appear, which 
is the method that Plato ufes; or as the recital of 
a converfation, where the Author himfelf appears, 
and gives an account of what palled in difcourfe; 
which is the method that Cicero generally follows. 
But though thofe different methods make fome 
variation in the form, yet the nature of the Com- 
pofition is at bottom the fame in both, and Subject 
to the fame laws. 

A Dialogue, in one or other of thefe forms, 
on fome philofophical, moral, or critical Subject, 


, f ,g DIALOGUE. 

j. e c t. when it is well conducted, (lands in a his;h rank 
among the Works of Taftej but is much more 
difficult in the execution than is commonly ima- 
gined. For it requires more, than merely the in- 
troduction of different perfons fpeaking in fucccf- 
fion. It ought to be a natural and fpirited repre- 
fentation of real converfation ; exhibiting the cha- 
racter and manners of the feveral Speakers, and 
fuiting to the character of each that peculiarity of 
thought and expreffion which diftinguiihes him 
from another. A Dialogue, thus conducted, gives 
the Reader a very agreeable entertainment ; as by 
means of the debate gGing on among the perfon- 
ages, lie receives a fair and full view of both fides 
of the argument; and is, at the fame time, amufed 
with polite converfation, and with a difplay of con- 
fident and well fupported characters. An author, 
therefore, who has genius for executing fuch a 
Compofition after this manner, has it in his power 
both to inftruct and to pleafe. 

But the greatef! part of Modern Dialogue 
Writers have no idea of any Compofition of this 
fort 3 and bating the outward forms of converfa- 
tion, and that one fpeaks, and another anfwers, it 
is quite the fame as if the Author fpoke in perfon 
throughout the whole. He fets up a Philotheus, 
perhaps, and a Philatheos, or an A and a B ; who, 
after mutual compliments, and after admiring the 
finenefs of the morning or evening, and the beauty 
of the profpects around them, enter into confer- 


ence concerning fome grave matter ; and all that L v J c t. 

/• t ■ i -X.A..A. Vll. 

we know farther or them is, that the one perfor- 
ates the Author, a man of learning, no doubt, and 
of good principles ; and the other is a man of draw, 
fet up to propofe fome trivial objections ; over 
which the firft gains a mod entire triumph, and 
leaves his fceptical antagonift at the end much 
humbled, and, generally, convinced of his error. 
This is a very frigid and infipid manner of writing ; 
the more fo, as it is an attempt toward fomething, 
which we fee the Author cannot fupport. It is the 
form, without the fpirit of converfation. The 
Dialogue ferves no purpofe, but to make awkward 
interruptions j and we mould with more patience 
hear the Author continuing always to reafon him- 
felf, and to remove the objections that are made to 
his principles, than be troubled with the unmean- 
ing appearance of two perfons, whom we fee to be 
in reality no more than one. 

Among the Antients, Plato is eminent for the 
beauty of his Dialogues. The fcenery, and the 
circumftances of many of them, are beautifully 
painted. The characters of the Sophifts, with 
whom Socrates difputed, are well drawn j a variety 
of perfonages are exhibited to us j we are intro- 
duced into a real converfation, often fupported with 
much life and fpirit, after the Socratic manner. 
For richnefs and beauty of imagination, no Philo~ 
fophic Writer, Antient or Modern, is comparable 
to Plato. The only fault of his imagination is, 
5 fuch 


L E C 


J- fuch an excefs of fertility as allows it fometimes to 
obfcure his judgment. It frequently carries him 
into Allegory, Fiction, Enthufiafm, and the airy 
regions of Myftical Theology. The Philofopher 
is, at times, loft in the Poet. But whether we be 
edified with the matter or not, (and much edifica- 
tion he often affords,) we are always entertained 
with the manner; and left with a ftrong impreffion 
of the fublimity of the Author's genius. 

Cicero's Dialogues, or thofe recitals of conver- 
fation which he has introduced into feveral of his 
Philofophical and Critical Works, are not fo fpi- 
rited, nor fo characteriftical, as thofe of Plato, 
Yet fome, as that cc De Oratore" efpecially, are 
agreeable and well fupported. They fhew us con- 
vention carried on among fome of the principal 
perfons of antient Rome, with freedom, good 
breeding, and dignity. The Author of the elegant 
Dialogue " De Caufis Corruptee Eloquentiae," 
which is annexed fometimes to the works of 
Quinctilian, and fometimes to thofe of Tacitus, 
has happily imitated, perhaps has excelled Cicero, 
in this manner of writing. 

Lucian is a Dialogue Writer of much emi- 
nence; though his fubjects are feldom fuch as can 
entitle him to be ranked among Philofophical 
Authors. He has given the model of the light 
and humorous Dialogue, and has carried it to 
great perfection. A character of levity, and at the 



fame time of wit and penetration, diftingui flies all 
his writings. His great object was, to expole the 
follies of fuperftition, and the pedantry of Philofo- 
phy, which prevailed in his age ; and he could not 
have taken any more fuccefsful method for this 
end, than what he has employed in his Dialogues, 
efpecially in thofe of the Gods and of the Dead, 
which are full of pleafantry and fatire. In this 
invention of Dialogues of the Dead, he has been 
followed by feveral Modern Authors. Fontenelle, 
in particular, has given us Dialogues of this fort, 
which are fprightly and agreeable; but as for cha- 
racters, whoever his perlbnages be, they all be- 
come Frenchmen in his hands. Indeed few things 
in Compofition are more difficult, than in the 
courfe of a Moral Dialogue to exhibit characters 
properly diflinguifhed ; as calm converfation fur- 
nifhes none of thofe atTiftances for bringing charac- 
ters into light, which the active fcenes, and inte- 
refting fituations of the Drama, afford. Hence 
few Authors are eminent for Characteriftical Dia- 
logue on grave fubjects. One of the moft remark- 
able in the Englifh language, is a Writer of the 
laft age, Dr. Henry More, in his Divine Dia- 
logues, relating to the foundations of Natural 
Religion. Though his Style be now in fome mea- 
fure obfolete, and his Speakers be marked with 
the academic ftiffnefs of thofe times, yet the 
Dialogue is animated by a variety of Character, and 
a fprightlinefs of Converfation, beyond what are 
commonly met with in Writings of this kind. 

4 Bifhop 

6 2 epistolary Writing. 

Bifhop Berkeley's Dialogues concerning the exift- 
ence of matter, do not attempt any difplay of 
Characters; but furnifh-, an inftance of a very ab- 
ftract fubject, rendered clear and intelligible by 
means of Converfation properly managed. 

I proceed next to make fome obfervations on 
Epiftolary Writing ; which poffeffes a kind of 
middle place between the ferious and amufing 
fpecies of Compofition. Epiftolary Writing ap- 
pears, at fir ft view, to ftretch into a very wide 
field. For there is no fubject whatever, on which 
one may not convey his thoughts to the Public, in 
the form of a Letter. Lord Shaftfbury, for in- 
ftance, Mr. Harris, and feveral other Writers, have 
chofen to give this form to philofophical treatifes. 
But this is not fufficient to clafs fuch treatifes under 
the head of Epiftolary Compofition. Though they 
bear, in the title-page, a Letter to a Friend, after 
the firft addrefs, the Friend difappears, and we fee, 
that it is, in truth, the Public with whom the 
author correfponds. Seneca's Epiftles are of this 
fort. There is no probability that they ever palled 
in correfpondence, as real letters. They are no 
other than mifcellaneous diflertations on moral fub- 
jects ; which the Author, for his convenience, 
chofe to put into the epiftolary form. Even where 
one writes a real letter on fome formal topic, as of 
moral or religious confolation to a per Ion under 
diftrefs, fuch as Sir William Temple has written 
to trhe Countefs of EiTex on the death of her 



daughter, he is at liberty, on fuch occafions, to L E c T - 

. & 5 . . '' . ' XXXVII. 

write wholly as a Divine or as a Philoiopher, and 

to a flu me the ftyle and manner of one, without 

reprehenfion. We confider the Author not as 

writing a Letter, but as compofing a Difcourfe, 

fuited particularly to the circumftances of fome 

one per-ibn. 

Epistolary Writing becomes a diftindt fpecies 
of Compofition, fubject to the cognizance of Cri- 
ticifm, only, or chiefly, when it is of the eafy and 
familiar kind ; when it is converfation carried on 
upon paper, between two friends at a diftance. 
Such an intercourfe, when well conducted, may- 
be rendered very agreeable to Readers of tafte. If 
the fubject of the Letters be important, they will be 
the more valuable. Even though there fhould be 
nothing very considerable in the fubject, yet if the 
ipirit and turn of the correfpondence be agreeable ; 
if they be written in a fprightly manner, and with 
native grace and eafe, they may ftill be entertain- 
ing ; more especially if there be any thing to inte- 
rest us, in the characters of thofe who write them. 
Hence the curiofity which the Public has always 
difcovered, concerning the Letters of eminent per- 
fons. We expect in them to difcover fomewhat of 
their real character. It is childilli indeed to ex- 
pect, that in Letters we are to find the whole heart 
of the Author unveiled. Concealment and dif- 
guife take place, more or lefs, in all human inter- 
courfe. But flill, as Letters from one friend to 



another make the neareft approach to converfation, 
we may expect to fee more of a character difplayed 
in thefe than in other productions, which are 
ftudied for public view. We pleafe ourfelves with 
beholding the Writer in a fituation which allows 
him to be at his eafe, and to give vent occafionally 
to the overflowings of his heart. 

Much, therefore, of the merit, and the agree- 
ablenefs of Epiftolary Writing, will depend on its 
introducing us into fome acquaintance with the 
Writer. There, if any where, we look for the 
Man, not for the Author. Its nrfr. and funda- 
mental requifite is, to be natural and fimple; for a 
ft iff and laboured manner is as bad in a Letter, as 
it is in Converfation. This does .not banifh 
fprightlinefs and wit. Thefe are graceful in Let- 
ters, juft as they are in Conversion ; when they 
flow eafily, and without being ftudied ; when em- 
ployed fo as to feafon, not to cloy. One who, 
either in Converfation or in Letters, affects to fhine 
and to fparkle always, will not pleafe long. The 
ftyle of Letters fnould not be too highly polilhed. 
It ought to be neat and correct, but no more. All 
nicety about words, betrays ftudyj and hence mu- 
fical periods, and appearances of number and har- 
mony in arrangement, mould be carefully avoided 
in Letters. The bell Letters, are commonly fuch 
as rhe Authors have written with molt facility. 
What the heart or the imagination dictates, always 
flows readily ■, but where there is no fubject to warm 



or intereft thefe, conftraint appears; and hence, xxxvil" 
thofe Letters of mere compliment, congratulation, 
or affected condolence, which have colt the Au- 
thors mod labour in compofing, and which, for 
that reafon, they perhaps confider as their mafter- 
pieces, never fail of being the mod difagreeable and 
infipid to the Readers. 

It ought, at the fame time, to be remembered, 
that the eafe and fimplicity which I have recom- 
mended in Epiftolary Correfpondence, are not to 
be understood as importing entire carelefThefs. la 
writing to the mod intimate friend, a certain de- 
gree of attention, both to the fubject and the ftyle, 
is irequifite and becoming. It is no more than 
what we owe both to ourfelves, and to the friend 
with whom we correfpond. A flovenly and negli- 
gent manner of Writing, is a difobliging mark 
of want of refpect. The liberty, befides, of 
writing Letters with too carelefs a hand, is apt to 
betray perfons into imprudence in what they write. 
The firft requifite, both in converfation and cor- 
refpondence, is to attend to all the proper decorums 
which our own character, and that of others, de- 
mand. An imprudent expreffion in converfation 
may be forgotten and pais away ; but when we take 
the pen into our hand, we mult remember, that, 
" Litera fcripta manet." 

Pliny's Letters are one of the mod celebrated 
collections which the Antients have given us, in 
the epiftolary way. They are elegant and polite; 

vol. in. f and 


and exhibit a very pleafing and amiable view of the 
Author. But, according to the vulgar phrafe, 
they fmeil too much of the lamp. They are too 
elegant and fine j and it is not eafy to avoid think- 
ing, that the Author is catling an eye towards the 
Public, when he is appearing to write only for his 
friends. Nothing indeed is more difficult, than 
for an Author, who publiihes his own Letters, to 
divell himfeif altogether of attention to the opinion 
of the world in what he fays ; by which means, he 
becomes much lefs agreeable than a man of parts 
would be, if, without any conftraint of this fort, he 
were writing to his intimate friend. 

Cicero's Epiftles, though not fo fhowy as thofe 
of Pliny, are, on feveral accounts, a far more 
valuable collection ; indeed, the mod valuable 
collection of Letters extant in any language. They 
are Letters of real bufinefs, written to the greatefi 
men of the age, compofed with purity and ele- 
gance, but without the leait affectation j and, 
what adds greatly to their merit, written without 
any intention of being published to the world. For 
it appears, that Cicero never kept copies of his 
own Letters j and we are wholly indebted to the 
care of his freed- man Tyro, for the large collec- 
tion that was made, after his death, of thofe which 
are now extant, amounting to near a thoufand *. 

* Sec his Letter to Atticus, which was written a year or two 
before his death, it> which he tells him, in anftver to fome en- 
quiries concerning his Epiitlcs, that he had no collutflion of them, 
and that Tyro had only about ievtnty of them. Ad At r. 16. c. 

T . 


They contain the moil authentic materials of the 
hiftory of that age; and are the laft monuments 
which remain of Rome in its free ftate; the greateft 
part of them being written during that important 
crifis, when the Republic was on the point of ruin j 
the moft interefting fituation, perhaps, which is to 
be found in the affairs of mankind. To his inti- 
mate friends, efpecially to Atticus, Cicero lays 
open himfelf and his heart, with entire freedom. 
In the courfe of his correfpondence with others, 
we are introduced into acquaintance with feveral of 
the principal perfonages of Rome; and it is re- 
markable that moft of Cicero's correfpondents, as 
well as himfelf, are elegant and polite V\ T riters ; 
which ferves to heighten our idea of the tafte and 
manners of that age. 

The moft diftinguifhed Collection of Letters in 
the Englifh Language, is that of Mr. Pope, Dean 
Swift, and their friends ; partly published in Mr. 
Pope's Works, and partly in thofe of Dean Swift. 
This Collection is, on the whole, an entertaining 
and agreeable one; and contains much wit and 
refinement. It is not, however, altogether free 
from the fault which I imputed to Pliny's Epiftles, 
of too much ftudy and refinement. In the variety 
of Letters from different perfons, contained in that 
Collection, we find many that are written with eafe, 
and a beautiful fimplicity. Thofe of Dr. Arbuth- 
not, in particular, always deferve that praife. Dean 
Swift's alfo are unaffected; and as a proof of their 

f 2 being 


J i^ c r T - being fo, they exhibit his character fully, with all 

XXXVII. d * y _ J * 

its defeats; though it were to be wifhed, for the 
honour of his memory, that his Epiftolary Corre- 
fpondence had not been drained to the dregs, by 
fo many fucceflive publications, as have been given 
to the world. Several of Lord Bolingbroke's, and 
of Bifhop Atterbury's Letters, are mafterly. The 
cenfure of writing Letters in too artificial a man- 
ner, falls heavieft on Mr. Pope himfelf. There is 
vifibly more ftudy, and lefs of nature and the heart 
in his Letters, than in thofe of fome of his corre- 
fpondents. He had formed himfelf on the manner 
of Voiture, and is too fond of writing like a wit. 
His Letters to Ladies are full of affectation. Even 
in writing to his friends, how forced an Introduc- 
tion is the following, of a Letter to Mr. Addifon : 
ec I am more joyed at your return, than I fhould 
" be at that of the Sun, as much as I wifh for him 
" in this melancholy wet feafon; but it is his fate 
f{ too, like your's, to be difpleafmg to owls and 
<c obfcene animals, who cannot bear his luftre." 
How (lift a compliment is it 3 which he pays to 
Bifhop Atterbury ? cc Though the noife and daily 
" buttle for the Public be now over, I dare fay, 
<c you are (till tendering its welfare; as the Sun in 
" winter, when feeming to retire from the world, 
<c is preparing warmth and benedictions for a bet- 
tc ter feafon." This fentence might be tolerated 
in a harangue; but is very unfuitable to the Style 
of one friend correfponding with another. 



The gaiety and vivacity of the French genius 
appear to much advantage in their Letters, and 
have given birth to feveral agreeable publications. 
In the lafl: age, Balzac and Voiture were the two 
moll celebrated Epiftolary Writers. Balzac's repu- 
tation indeed foon declined, on account of his 
fwelling periods and pompous Style. But Voi- 
ture continued long a favourite Author. His 
Compofition is extremely fparkling; he ihovvs a 
great deal of wit, and can trifle in the molt enter- 
taining manner. His only fault is, that he is too 
open and profeffed a wit, to be thoroughly agree- 
able as a Letter Writer. The Letters of Madam 
de Sevigne, are now efteemed the molt accom- 
plifhed model of a familiar correfpondence. They 
turn indeed very much upon trifles, the incidents 
of the day, and the news of the town j and they 
are overloaded with extravagant compliments, and 
exprefTions of fondnefs, to her favourite daugh- 
ter j but withal, they mow fuch perpetual fpright- 
lineis, they contain fuch eafy and varied narration, 
and fo many ftrokes of the inoit lively and beauti- 
ful painting, perfectly free from any affectation, 
that they are juftly intitled to high praife. The 
fetters of Lady Mary Wortley Montague are not 
unworthy of being named after thofe of Mad. de 
Sevigne. They have much of the French eafe and 
vivacity ; and retain more the character of agree- 
able Epiitolary Style, than perhaps any Letters 
which have appeared in the Englilh language. 

f 3 There 

L E C T. 



L E C T, 

XX >. VII. 

There remains to be treated of, another Species 
of Compofition in profe, which comprehends a very 
numerous, though, in general, a very infignificanc 
clafs of Writings, known by the name of Romances 
and Novels. Thefe may, at firft view, feem too 
infignificanc, to deferve that any particular notice 
mould be taker, of them. But I cannot be of this 
opinion. Mr. Fletcher of Salton, in one of his 
Tracts, quotes it as the faying of a wife man, that 
give him the making of all the ballads of a nation, 
he would allow any one that pleafed to make their 
-laws. The faying was founded on reflection and 
good i'en^, and is applicable to the fubject now 
before us. For any kind of Writing, how trifling 
foever in appearance, that obtains a general cur- 
rency, and efpecially that early pre-occupies the 
imagination of the youth of both \'excs y mull de- 
mand particular attention. Its influence is likely 
to be confiderable, both on the morals and talle 
of a nation. 

In fact, Fictitious Hiflories might be employed 
for very ufeful purpofes. They furnifh one of the 
belt channels for conveying inflruction, for paint- 
ing human life and manners, for mowing the errors 
into which we are betrayed by our paffions, for 
rendering virtue amiable and vice odious. The 
effect of well contrived dories, towards accom- 
pfifhing thefe purpofes, is ftronger than any effect 
that can be produced by ft m pie and naked inftruc- 
tiorij and hence we find, that the wifcft men in 



all ages have more or lefs employed fables and L | c ]"• 
fictions, as the vehicles of knowledge. Thefe 
have ever been the bafis of both Epic and Dra- 
matic Poetry. It is not, therefore, the nature 
of this fort of Writing, confidcred in itfelf, but 
the faulty manner of its execution, that can ex- 
pofe it to any contempt. Lord Bacon takes 
notice of our tafte for Fictitious Hiftory, as a proof 
of the greatnefs and dignity of the human mind. 
He obferves very ingenioufly, that the objects of 
this world, and the common train of affairs which 
we behold going on in it, do not fill the mind, 
nor give it entire farisfaction. We feek for fome- 
thing that (hall expand the mind in a greater de- 
gree : we feek for more heroic and illuftrious 
deeds, for more diverfified and furprifing events, 
for a more fplendid order of things, a more regu- 
lar and juft diitribution of rewards and punifhments 
than what we find here : becaufe we meet not with 
thefe in true hiilory, we have recourfe to fictitious. 
We create worlds according to our fancy, in order 
to gratify our capacious defires : <{ Accommo- 
f< dando," fays that great Philofopher, ' f rerum 
<c fimulachra ad animi defideria, non fubmittendo 
" animum rebus, quod ratio facir, et hiiioria *." 
Let us then, fince the fubject wants neither dignity 
nor ufe, make a few obfervations on the rife and 

* " Accommodating the appearances of things to the defires 
" of the mind, not bringing down the mind, as hiftory and 
liiofophy do, to the courfe of events." 

F 4 pro 


I- F C T. 

progrefs of Fictitious HiRory, and the different 
forms ic has afTumed in different countries. 

In all countries we find its origin very antient. 
The genius of the Faftern nations, in particular, 
was from the earlieft times much turned towards 
invention, and the love of ficlion. Their pivi- 
nity, their Philofophy, and their Politics, were 
clothed in fables and parables. The Indians, the 
Perfians, and Arabians, were all famous for their 
tales, The " Arabian Night's Entertainments" 
are the production of a romantic invention, but 
of a rich and amufing imagination; exhibiting a 
lingular and curious difplay of manners and cha- 
racters, and beautified with a very humane mora- 
lity. Among the antient Greeks, we hear of the 
Ionian and Milefian Tales ; but they have now 
perifhed, and, from any account that we have 
of them, appear to have been of the loofe and 
wanton kind. Some Fictitious Hiftories yet re- 
main, that were compoled during the decline of 
the Roman Empire, by Apuleius, Achilles Ta- 
tius, and Heliodorus bifhop of Trica, in the 4th 
century ; but none of them are confiderable enough 
to merit particular criticifm. 

During the dark ages, this fort of writing af- 
fumed a new and very fingular form, and for a 
long while made a great figure in the world. The 
martial /pirit of thofe nations, among whom the 
feudal government prevailed; the ellabliihment of 



finale combat, as an allowed method of deciding L E c T - 

c . XXXVII. 

caufes both of jultice and honour - 3 the appoint- 
ment of champions in the caufe of women, who 
could not maintain their own rights by the fword; 
together with the inftitution of military tourna- 
ments, in which different kingdoms vied with one 
another, gave rife, in thofe times, to that mar- 
vellous fyftem of chivalry, which is one of the 
molt lingular appearances in the hiftory of man- 
kind. Upon this were founded thofe romances of 
knight-errantry, which carried an ideal chivalry to 
a ftill more extravagant height than it had rifen in 
fact. There was difulayeu in them a new and 
very wonderful fort of world, hardly bearing any 
refemblance to the world in which we dwell. Noc 
only knights fetting forth to redrefs all manner of 
wrongs, but in every page, magicians, dragons, 
and giants, invulnerable men, winged horfes, en- 
chanted armour, and enchanted caftles; adventures 
ablolutely incredible, yet fuited to the grofs igno- 
rance of thefe ages, and to the legends, and fu- 
perlticious notions concerning magic and necro- 
mancy, which then prevailed. This merit they 
had, of being writings of the highly moral and 
heroic kind. Their knights were patterns, not 
of courage merely, but of religion, generofity, 
courtefy, and fidelity ; and the heroines were no 
lefs diitinguifhed for modefty, delicacy, and the 
utmoft dignity of manners. 

These were the firft Compofitions that received 
the name of Romances. The origin of this name 



is traced, by Mr. Huet, the learned bifhop of 
Avranche, to the Provencal Troubadoures, a fort 
of ftory-tellers and bards in the county of Pro- 
vence, where there fubfifted fome remains of lite- 
rature and poetry. The language which prevailed 
in that country was a mixture of Latin and Gallic, 
called the Roman or Romance Language; and, 
as the (lories of thefe Troubadoures were written 
in that language, hence it is laid the name of Ro- 
mance, which we now apply, to all fictitious Com- 

The earlieft of thole Romances, is that which 
goes under the name of Turpin, the archbimop 
of Rheims, written in the nth century. The 
fubject is, the Atchievements of Charlemagne and 
his Peers, or Paladins, in driving the Saracens 
cut of France and part of Spain; the fame fubject 
which Ariollo has taken for his celebrated poem 
of Orlando Furiofo, which is truly a Chivalry Ro- 
mance, as extravagant as any of the reft, but 
partly heroic, and partly comic, embellifhed with 
the highcft graces of poetry. The Romance of 
Turpin was followed by Amadis de Gaul, and 
many more of the fame (lamp. The Cru fades 
both furnifhed new matter, and increafed the fpirit 
for Rich Writings; the Chrillians againit the Sara- 
cens made the common ground- work of them; 
and from the nth to the 16th century, they con- 
tinued to bewitch all Europe. In Spain, wheie 
the tafte for this fort of writing had been molt 
greedily caught, the ingenious Cervantes, in the 



beginning of the laft century, contributed greatly l e c t. 
to explode it -, and the abolition of tournaments, <— - v -.-j 
the prohibition of fingle combat, the diibelief of 
magic and enchantments, and the change in ge- 
neral of manners throughout Europe, began to 
give a new turn to fictitious Compofition. 

Then appeared the Aftnsa of D'urfe, the Grand 
Cyrus, the Clelia and Cleopatra of Mad. Scuderi, 
the Arcadia of Sir Philip Sidney, and other grave 
and (lately Compofitions in the fame ftyle. Thefe 
may be confidered as forming the fecond ftage of 
Romance Writing. The heroiim and the gal- 
lantry, the moral and virtuous turn of the chivalry 
romance, were ftill preferved •, but the dragons, 
the necromancers, and the enchanted caftles, were 
banifhed, and lome fmall refemblance to human 
nature was introduced. Still, however, there was 
too much of the marvellous in them to pleafe an 
age which now afpired to refinement. The cha- 
racters were difcerned to be drained ; the ftyle to 
be fwoln ; the adventures incredible : the books 
themfelves were voluminous and tedious. 

Hence, this fort of Compofition foon afTumed 
a third form, and from magnificent Heroic Ro- 
mance, dwindled down to the Familiar Novel. 
Thefe novels, both in France and England, during 
the age of Lewis XIV. and King Charles II. 
were in general of a trifling nature, without the 
appearance of moral tendency, or ufeful inftruc- 



hvlLJLJ' tion. 'Since that time, however, fomewhat better 

.A..O.A V II* 

has been attempted, and a degree of reforma- 
tion introduced into the fpirit of Novel Writing, 
Imitations of life and character have been made 
their principal objeft. Relations have been pro- 
feffed to be given of the behaviour of perfons in 
particular interesting fituations, fuch as may actu- 
ally occur in life ; by means of which, what is 
laudable or defective in character and condudt, 
may be pointed out, and placed in an ufeful light. 
Upon this plan, the French have produced fome 
.compofitions of considerable merit. Gil Bias, by 
Le Sage, is a book full of good fenfe, and in- 
structive knowledge of the world. The works 
of Marivaux, efpecially his Marianne, difcover 
great refinement of thought, great penetration into 
human nature, and paint, with a very delicate 
pencil, fome of the niceft (hades and features in 
the distinction of characters. The Nouvelle He- 
loife of Rouileau is a production of a very fmgular 
kind ; in many of the events which are related, 
improbable and unnatural 5 in fome of the details 
tedious, and for fome of the fcenes which are 
defcribed juftly blameablej but withal, for the 
power of eloquence, for tendernefs of fentiment, 
for ardour of paffion, entitled to rank among the 
higheft productions of Fictitious Hiftory. 

In this kind of Writing we are, it miift be 
confefTed, in Great Britain, inferior to the French. 
We neither relate fo agreeably, nor draw charac- 


tcrs with fo much delicacy; yet we are not without L E c t. 
fome performances which difcover the ftrength of 
the Britiih genius. No fiction, in any language, 
was ever better fupported than the Adventures of 
Robinfon Crufoe. While it is carried on with 
that appearance of truth and fimplicity, which 
takes a ftrong hold of the imagination of all 
Readers, it fuggefts, at the fame time, very ufeful 
inftruction ; by fhowing how much the native 
powers of man may be exerted for furmounting 
the difficulties of any external fituation. Mr. 
Fielding's Novels are highly diftinguifhed for their 
humour j a humour which, if not of the mod re- 
fined and delicate kind, is original, and peculiar 
to himfelf. The characters which he draws are 
lively and natural, and marked with the ftrokes of 
a bold pencil. The general fcope of his {lories 
is favourable to humanity and goodnefs of heart; 
and in Tom Jones, his greateft work, the artful 
conduct of the fable, and the fubferviency of all 
the incidents to the winding up of the whole, de- 
ferve much praife. The moft moral of all our 
Novel Writers is Richardfon, the Author of Cla- 
rifla, a writer of excellent intentions, and of very 
conHderabie capacity and genius ; did he not pof- 
fcfs the unfortunate talent of fpinning out pieces 
of amufement into an immeafurable length. The 
trivial performances which daily appear in public 
under the title of Lives, Adventures, and Hif- 
tories, by anonymous Authors, if they be often 
innocent, yet are mod commonly infipid ; and, 
13 though 


though in the general it ought to be admitted that- 
ch haradleriftical Novels, formed upon Nature and 
upon Life, without extravagance, and without 
licentioufnefs, might furnifh an agreeable and ufe- 
ful entertainment to the mind ; yet confidering 
the manner in which thefe Writings have been* 
for the moll part, conducted, it muft alfo be con- 
ferred, that they oftener tend to difiipation and 
idlenefs, than to any good purpofe. Let us now, 
therefore, make our retreat from thefe regions of 




L E C T. 

have now finifhed my obfervations on the dif- 
ferent kinds of Writing in Profe. What re- ™ vlal : 
mains is, to treat of Poetical Compofition. Be- 
fore entering on the confederation of any of its 
particular kinds, I defign this Lecture as an In- 
troduction to the fubject of Poetry in general ; 
wherein I fhall treat of its nature, give an account 
of its origin, and make fome obfervations on Ver- 
fification, or Poetical Numbers. 

Our firft enquiry muft be, what is Poetry ? 
and wherein does it differ from Profe ? The an- 
fwer to this question is not fo eafy as might at 
fir fb be imagined ; and Critics have differed and 
difputed much, concerning the proper definition 
or Poetry. Some have made its effence to confift 
in fiction, and fupport their opinion by the autho- 
rity of Ariftotle and Plato. But this is certainly 
too limited a definition; for though fiction m.iy 



have a great mare in many Poetical CompofitionSj 
yet many fubjects of Poetry may not be feigned 3 
as where the Poet defcribes objects which actually 
exid, or pours forth the real fentiments of his 
own heart. Others have made the characteridic of 
Poetry to lie in Imitation. But this is altogether 
loofe ; for feveral other arts imitate as well as 
Poetry j and an imitation of human manners and 
characters, may be carried on in the humbled 
Profe, no lefs than in the mod lofcy Poetic drain. 

The mod juft and comprehensive definition 
which, I think, can be given of Poetry, is, 
<c That it is the language of paffion, or of en- 
ec livened imagination, formed, mod commonly, 
" into regular numbers." The Hidorian, the 
Orator, the Philofopher, addrefs themfelves, for 
the mod part, primarily to the underftanding : 
their direct aim is to inform, to perfuade, or to 
indruct. But the primary aim of a Poet is to 
pleafe, and to move •> and, therefore, it is to the 
Imagination, and the PafTions, that he fpeaks. 
He may, and he ought to have it in his view, to 
indruct, and to reform ; but it is indirectly, and 
by pleafing and moving, that he accomplifhes this 
end. His mind is fuppofed to be animated by 
fome intereding object which fires his Imagination, 
or engages his PafTions ; and which, of courfe, 
communicates to his Style a peculiar elevation 
{liked to his ideas; very different from that mode 
of exprefilon, which is natural to the mind in its 



calm, ordinary ftate. I have added to my defi- 
nition, that this language of Pafllon, or Imagina- 
tion, is formed, mojl commonly, into regular num- 
bers ; becaufe, though Verification be, in general, 
the exterior diftinclion of Poetry, yet there are 
fome forms of Verfe fo loofe and familiar, as to 
be hardly diftinguifhable from Profe ; fuch as the 
Verfe of Terence's Comedies j and there is alfo a 
fpecies of Profe, (o meafured in its cadence, and 
fo much raifed in its tone, as to approach very 
near to Poetical Numbers ; fuch as the Tele- 
machus of Fenelon; and the Englifh Tranflation of 
Ofiian. The truth is, Verfe and Profe, on fome 
occafions, run into one another, like light and 
ftiade. It is hardly poflible to determine the 
exact limit where Eloquence ends, and Poetry 
begins; nor is there any occafion for being very 
precife about the boundaries, as long as the na- 
ture of each is underftood. Thefe are the minu- 
tiae of Criticifm, concerning which, frivolous Wri- 
ters are always difpofed to fquabble; but which 
deferve not any particular difcuffion. The truth 
and juftnefs of the definition, which I have given 
of Poetry, will appear more fully from the account 
which I am now to give of its origin, and which 
will tend to throw light on much of what I am 
afterwards to deliver, concerning its various kinds. 

The Greeks, ever fond of attributing to their 
own nation the invention of all fciences and arts, 
have afcribed the origin of Poetry to Orpheus, 

vol. in, g Unus ? 

L E C T. 

xxx vii i. 


l e c t. Linns, and Mufeus. There were, perhaps, fuch 

XXXVIII. 'rt •» i 

perfons as thefe, who were the firft. diftinguifhed 
bards in the Grecian countries. But long before 
fuch names were heard of, and among nations 
where they were never known, Poetry exifted; It 
is a great error to imagine, that Poetry and Mufic 
are Arts which belong only to polifhed nations. 
They have their foundation in the nature of man, 
and belong to all nations, and to all ages; though, 
like other Arts founded in nature, they have been 
more cultivated, and, from a concurrence of 
favourable circumftances, carried to greater per- 
fection in feme countries, than in others. In 
order to explore the rife of Poetry, we muft have 
recourfe to the deferts and the wilds ; we rrruft o-o 
back to the age of hunters and of fhepherds ; to 
the higheft antiquity ; and to the fimpleft form of 
manners among mankind. 

It has been often faid, and the concurring 
voice of all antiquity affirms, that Poetry is older 
than Profe. But in what fenfe this feemingly 
ftrange paradox holds true, has not always been 
well underftood. There never, certainly, was 
any period of fociety in which men converfed 
together in Poetical Numbers. It was in very 
humble and fcanty Profe, as we may eafily be- 
lieve, that the firft tribes carried on intercourfe 
among themfelves, relating to the wants and ne- 
ceflities of life. But from the very beginning of 
Society, there were cccafions on which they met; 



together for feafts, facrifices, and public aflTcm- 
blies; and on al! fuch occafions, it is well known, 
that mufic, fong, and dance, made their principal 
entertainment. It is chiefly in America, that we 
have had the opportunity of being made acr- 
quainted with men in their favage ftate. We 
learn from the particular and concurring accounts 
of Travellers, that, among all the nations of that 
vaft continent, efpecially among the Northern 
Tribes, with whom we have had molt intercourfe, 
mufic and fong are, at all their meetings, carried 
on with an incredible degree of enthufiafm ; that 
the Chiefs of the Tribe are thofe who fignalize 
themfelves mod on fuch occafions ; that it is in 
fongs they celebrate their religious rites j that, by 
thefe, they lament their public and private cala- 
mities, the death of friends, or the lofs of war- 
riors j exprefs their joy on their victories j cele- 
brate the great aclions of their nation, and their 
heroes 5 excite each other to perform brave ex- 
ploits in war, or to fuffer death and torments with 
unihaken conftancy. 

Here then we fee the firft beginnings of Poetic 
CompoTition, in thofe rude effufions, which the 
enthufiafm of fancy or pafiion fuggefted to untaught 
men, when roufed by interefting events, and by 
their meeting together in public afifembiies. Two 
particulars would early difbinguifh this language of 
fong, from that in which they converfed on the 
common occurrences of life -, namely, an unufual 

g 2 arrange- 


h E c T. 


arrangement of words, and the employment of bold 
figures of fpeech. It would invert words, or 
change them from that order in which they are 
commonly placed, to that which mod fuited the 
train in which they rofe in the Speaker's imagina- 
tion ; or which was moft accommodated to the 
cadence of the paflion by which he was moved. 
Under the influence too of any ftrong emotion, 
objects do not appear to us fuch as they really 
are, but fuch as paflion makes us fee them. We 
magnify and exaggerate ; we feek to intereft all 
others in what caufes our emotion j we compare 
the lead things to the greateft; we call upon the 
abfent as well as the prefent, and even addrefs 
ourfelves to things inanimate. Hence, in con- 
gruity with thofe various movements of the mind, 
arife thofe turns of expreffion, which we now dif- 
'tinguilh by the learned names of Hyperbole, Pro- 
fopopceia, Simile, &c. but which are no other 
than the native original language of Poetry, 
among the moft barbarous nations. 

Man is both a Poet, and a Mufician, by nature. 
The fame impulfe which prompted the enthufiaftic 
Poetic Style, prompted a certain melody, or mo- 
dulation of found, fuited to .the emotions of Joy 
or Grief, of Admiration, Love, or Anger. There 
is a power in found, which, partly from nature, 
partly from habit and afibciation, makes fuch pa- 
thetic imprefllons on the fancy, as delight even 
the moft wild barbarians. Mufic and Poetry, 



therefore, had the fame rife j they were prompted xxxvin" 
by the fame occafions ; they were united in fong j 
and, as long as they continued united, they tended, 
without doubt, mutually to heighten and exalt each 
other's power. The firft Poets fung their own 
Verfes ; and hence the beginning of what we call 
Verification, or Words arranged in a more artful 
order than Profe, fo as to be fuited to fome tune 
or melody. The liberty of tranfpofition, or inver- 
fion, which the Poetic Style, as I obferved, would 
naturally affume, made it eafier to form the words 
into fome fort of numbers that fell in with the 
Mufic of the Song. Very harm and uncouth, we 
may eafily believe, thefe numbers would be at firft. 
But the pleafure was felt ; it was ftudied j and Ver- 
ification, by degrees, patted into an Art. 

It appears from what has been faid, that the 
firft Compofitioos which were either recorded by 
Writing, or tranfmitted by Tradition, could be 
no other than Poetical Compofitions. No other 
but thefe, could draw the attention of men in their 
rude uncivilifed ftate. Indeed they knew no other. 
Cool reafoning and plain difcourfe, had no power 
to attract favage Tribes, addicled only to hunting 
and war. There was nothing that could either 
roufe the Speaker to pour himfelf forth, or draw 
the crowd to liften, but the high powers of Paf- 
fion, of Mufic, and of Song. This vehicle, 
therefore, and no other, could be employed by 
Chiefs and Legiflators, when they meant to inftru<fl 
o 3 or 


or to animate their Tribes. There is, likewife, 
a farther reaibn why fuch Compofirions only could 
be tranfmitted to pofterity - t becaufe, before Writ- 
ing was invented, Songs only could laft, and be 
remembered. The ear gave afiiftance to the me- 
mory, by the help of Numbers-, fathers repeated 
and fung them to their children j and by this oral 
tradition of national Ballads, were conveyed all the 
hiftorical knowledge, and all the inftru&ion, of the 
firft ages. 

The earlieft accounts which Hi (lory gives us 
concerning all nations, bear teftimony to theie 
fads. In the fir ft ages of Greece, Priefts, Phild- 
fophers, and Statefmen, all delivered their instruc- 
tions in Poetry. Apollo, Orpheus, and Amphion, 
their mod antient Bards, are reprefented as the 
firft tamers of mankind, the fir ft founders of law 
and civilization. Minos and Thales fung to the 
Lyre the laws which they compofed*; and till 
the age immediately preceding that of Herodotus, 
Hiftory had appeared in no other form than that 
of Poetical Tales. 

In the fame manner, among all other nations^ 
Poets and Songs are the firft, objects that make their 
appearance. Among the Scythian or Gothic na- 
tions, many of their kings and leaders were 
Scalders, or Poets -, and it is from their Runic 

* Straboj 1. 10. 

Songs 3 


Songs, that the mod early Writers of their Hif- 
tory, fuch as Saxo Grammaticus, acknowledge, 
that they had derived their chief information. 
Among the Cekic Tribes, in Gaul, Britain, and 
Ireland, we know, in what admiration their Bards 
were held, and how great influence they poiTefied 
over the people . They were both Poets and Mu- 
ficians, as all the fir ft Poets, in every country, 
were. They were always near the perfon of the 
chief or fovereign ; they recorded all his great 
exploits -, they were employed as the ambaffadors 
between contending tribes, and their perfons were 
held facred. 

From this deduction it follows, that as we have 
reafon to look for Poems and Songs among the 
antiquities of all countries, fo we may expect, 
that in the drain of theie there will be a remarkable 
refemblance, during the primitive periods of every 
country. The occafions of their being compofed, 
are every where nearly the fame. The praifes of 
Gods and heroes, the celebration of famed ances- 
tors, the recital of martial deeds, fongs of victory, 
and fongs of lamentation over the misfortunes and 
death of their countrymen, occur among all na- 
tions ; and the fame enthufiafm and fire, the fame 
wild and irregular, but animated Compofition, 
concife and glowing Style, bold and extravagant 
Figures of Speech, are the general diftinguifhing 
characters of all the moft antient original Poetry. 
c 4 That 


L E C T. 


That fxrong hyperbolical manner which we have 
been long accuftomed to call the Oriental manner 
of Poetry (becaufe fome of the earlieft poetical 
productions came to us from the Eaft), is in truth 
no more Oriental than Occidental ; it is charac- 
teriftical of an age rather than of a country ; and 
belongs, in fome meafure, to all nations at that 
period which firft gives rife to Mufic and to Song. 
Mankind never refemble each other, fo much as 
they do in the beginnings of fociety. Its fubfe- 
quent revolutions give birth to the principal dif- 
tinclions of character among nations, and divert 
into channels widely feparated, that current of hu- 
man genius and manners, which.defcends originally 
from one fpring. 

Diversity of climate, and of manner of living, 
will, however, occafion fome diverfity in the ftrain 
of the firft Poetry of nations ; chiefly, according as 
thofe nations are of a more ferocious, or of a more 
gentle fpirit; and according as they advance fafter 
or ilower in the arts of civilifation. Thus we find 
all the remains of the antient Gothic Poetry re- 
markably fierce, and breathing nothing but flaugh- 
ter and blood ; while the Peruvian and the Chi- 
nefe Songs turned, from the earlieft times, upon 
milder fubjects. The Celtic Poetry, in the days 
of Oflian, though chiefly of the martial kind, yet 
had attained a confiderable mixture of tendernefs 
and refinement i in confequence of the long cul- 


tivation of Poetry among the Cekas, by means of xxxvnT* 
a feries and fucceffion of Bards which had been 
eftablifhed for ages. So Lucan informs us : 

Vos quoque qui fortes animos, belloque peremptos 

Laudibus in longum vates diffunditis ?evum 

Plurimus fecuri fudiftis carmina Bardi *. [L. 44.] 

Among the Grecian nations, their early Poetry 
appears to have foon received a philofophical call, 
from what we are informed concerning the fubjects 
of Orpheus, Linus, and Mufeus, who treated of 
Creation and of Chaos, of the Generation of the 
World, and of the Rife of Things; and we know 
that the Greeks advanced fooner to philofophy, and 
proceeded with a quicker pace in all the arts of re- 
finement than mod other nations. 

The Arabians and the Perfians have always been 
the greateft Poets of the Eaft ; and among them, 
as among other nations, Poetry was the earliefb 
vehicle of all their learning and inftruction f. The 
antient Arabs, we are informed J, valued them- 

* You too, ye bards, whom facred raptures fire 
To chaunt your heroes to your country's lyre, 
Who confecrate in your immortal ftrain, 
Brave patriot fouls in righteous battle ilain ; 
Securely now the ufeful tafk renew, 
And nobleft themes in deathlefs fongs purfue. Rowe. 

-J- Vid. Voyages de Chardin, chap, de la Poefie des Perfans. 
X Vid. Preliminary Difcourfe to Sale's Tranflation of the 



felves much on their metrical Compofitions, which 
were of two forts ; the one they compared to loofe 
pearls, and the other to pearls fining. In the 
former, the fentences or verfes were without con- 
nection ; and their beauty arofe from the elegance 
of the exprefiion, and the acutenefs of the fenti- 
ment. The moral doctrines of the Perfians were 
generally comprehended in fuch independent pro- 
verbial apothegms, formed into verfe. In this 
refpect they bear a confiderable refemblance to the 
Proverbs of Solomon •, a great part of which book 
confifts of unconnected Poetry, like the loofe pearls 
of the Arabians. The fame form of Compofition 
appears alfo in the book of Job. The Greeks 
ieem to have been the firft who introduced a more 
regular ftructure, and clofer connection of parts^ 
into their Poetical Writings. 


During the infancy of Poetry, all the different 
kinds of it lay confuted, and were mingled in the 
fame Compofition, according as inclination, en- 
thufiafm, or cafual incidents, directed the Poet's 
itrain. In the progrefs of Society and Arts, they 
began to affume thofe different regular forms, and 
to be diftinguihhed by thofe different names under 
which we now know them. But in the firft rude 
ftate of Poetical Effufions, we can eafily difcern 
the feeds and beginnings of all the kinds of regular 
Poetry. Odes and Hymns of every fort, would 
naturally be among the firft Compofitions ; ac- 
cording as the Bards were moved by religious 



feelings, by exultation, refentment, love, or any l e c t. 


other warm fentiment, to pour themfelves forth in 
Song. Plaintive or Elegiac Poetry, would as na- 
turally arife from lamentations over their deceafed 
friends. The recital of the atchievements of their 
heroes, and their anceftors, gave birth to what 
we now call Epic Poetry -, and as, not content with 
(imply reciting thefe, they would infallibly be led, 
at lbme of their public meetings, to reprefent 
them, by introducing different Bards fpeaking in 
the character of their heroes, and anfwering each 
Other, we find in this the flrft outlines of Tragedy, 
or Dramatic Writing. 


None of thefe kinds of Poetry, however, were 
in the fir ft ages of Society properly diftinguifhed 
or feparated, as they are now, from each other. 
Indeed, not only were the different kinds of Poetry 
then mixed together, but all that we now call Let- 
ters, or Compofuion of any kind, was then blended 
in one mafs. At firft, Hiitory, Eloquence, and 
Poetry, were all the fame. Whoever wanted to 
move or to perfuade, to inform or to entertain his 
countrymen and neighbours, whatever was the 
iubjecl, accompanied his fentiments and tales with 
the melody of Song. This was the cafe in that 
period of Society, when the character and occu- 
pations of the hufbandman and the builder, the 
warrior and the ftatefman, were united in one per- 
fon. When the progrefs of Society brought on a 
reparation of the different Aits and Profefiions of 
13 Civil 

L E C T. 


Civil Life, it led alfo by degrees to a reparation of 
the different literary provinces from each other. 

The Art of Writing was in procefs of time 
invented ; records of paft tranfactions began to be 
kept ; men, occupied with the fubjects of policy 
and ufeful arts, wifhed now to be instructed and 
informed, as well as moved. They reafoned and 
reflected upon the affairs of life ; and were inte- 
refted by what was real, not fabulous, ini pad 
tranfactions. The Hiftorian, therefore, now laid 
afide the bufkins of Poetry ; he wrote in Profe, 
and attempted to give a faithful and judicious rela- 
tion of former events. The Philofopher addreffed 
himfelf chiefly to the understanding. The Orator 
fludied to perfuade by reafoning, and retained more 
or lefs of the antient pafllonate and glowing Style, 
according as it was conducive to his purpofe. 
Poetry became now a feparate art, calculated 
chiefly to pleafe, and confined generally to fuch 
iubjects as related to the imagination and paffions. 
Even its earlieft companion, Mufic, was in a great 
meafure divided from it. 

These reparations brought all the literary arts 
into a more regular form, and contributed to the 
exact and accurate cultivation of each. Poetry, 
however, in its antient original condition, was 
perhaps more vigorous than it is in its modern 
ftate. It included then, the whole burft of the 
'human mind 3 the whole exertion of its imaginative 
8 faculties. 


faculties. It fpoke then the language of paffion, xxxvih.' 
and no other j for to paffion it owed its birth. < - .-> —■ * 
Prompted and infpired by objects which to him 
feemed great, by events which interefled his coun- 
try or his friends, the early Bard arofe and fung. 
He fung indeed in wild and diforderly (trains ; but 
they were the native effufions of his heart ; they 
were the ardent conceptions of admiration or re- 
fentment, of forrow or friendfhip, which he poured 
forth. It is no wonder, therefore, that in the rude 
and artlefs ftrain of the firft Poetry of all nations, 
we fnould often find fomewhat that captivates and 
tranfports the mind. In after-ages, when Poetry 
became a regular art, ftudied for reputation and 
for gain, Authors began to affect what they did 
not feel. Compofing coolly in their clofets, they 
endeavoured to imitate paffion, rather than to ex- 
prefs it; they tried to force their imagination into 
raptures, or to fupply the defect of native warmth, 
by thofe artificial ornaments which might give 
Compofition a fplendid appearance. 

The feparation of Mufic from Poetry, produced 
confequences not favourable in fome refpects to 
Poetry, and in many refpedh hurtful to Mufic *. 
As long as they remained united, Mufic enlivened 
and animated Poetry, and Poetry gave force and 
exprefiion to mufical found. The Mufic of that 

* See Dr. Brown's Diflertation on the Rife, Union, and 
Separation of Poetry and Mufic, 




early period was, beyond doubt, extremely fimple; 
and muft have confifted chiefly of fuch pathetic 
notes, as the voice could adapt to the words of 
the Song. Mufical ihftrumentSj fuch as flutes^ 
and pipes, and a lyre with a very few firings^ 
appear to have been early invented among fome 
nations ; but no more was intended by thefe in- 
ftruments, than (imply to accompany the voice, 
and to heighten the melody of Song. The Poet's 
(train was always heard ; and, from many circum- 
ftances, it appears, that among the antient Greeks, 
as well as among other nations, the Bard fung his 
verfes, and played upon his harp or lyre at the 
fame time. In this ftate, the art of Mufic was, 
when it produced all thofe great effects, of which 
we read fo much in antient hiftory. And certain 
it is, that from iimple Mufic only, and from Mu- 
fic accompanied with Verfe or Song, we are to 
look for ftrong expreffion, and powerful influence 
over the human mind. When inftrumental Mufic 
came to be ftudied as a feparate art, diverted of 
the Poet's Song, and formed into the artificial and 
intricate combinations of harmony, it loft all its 
antient power of inflaming the hearers with ftrong 
emotions j and funk into an art of mere amufe- 
rnent, among polifhed and luxurious nations. 

Still, however, Poetry preferves, in all coun- 
tries, fome remains of its firft and original con- 
nection with Mufic. By being uttered in Song, it 
was formed into numbers, or into an artificial ar- 


rangement of words and fyllables, very different in ^ E c T - 

different countries ; but fuch as, to the inhabitants 1 / — »; 

of each, feemed mod melodious and agreeable in 
found. Whence arifes that great characteristic of 
Poetry which we now call Verfe; a fubject which 
comes next to be treated of. 

It is a fubjedt of a curious nature; but as I am 
fenfible, that, were I to purfue it as far as my in- 
clination leads, it would give rife to difcuflions, 
which the greater part of Readers would confider 
as minute, I fhall confine myfelf to a few obfer- 
vations upon Englifh Verification. 

Nations, whofe language and pronunciation 
were of a mufical kind, retted their Verification 
chiefly upon the quantities, that is, the length or 
fhortnefs of their fyllables. Others, who did not 
make the quantities of their fyllables be fo dif- 
tinctly perceived in pronouncing them, reded the 
melody of their Verfe upon the number of fyllables 
it contained, upon the proper difpofition of accents 
and paufes in it, and frequently upon that return 
of correfponding founds, which we call Rhyme. 
The former was the cafe v/ith the Greeks and Ro- 
mans ; the latter is the cafe with us, and with 
mod modern nations. Among the Greeks and 
Romans, every fyllabie, or the far greated num- 
ber at lead, was known to have a fixed and deter- 
mined quantity; and their manner of pronouncing 
rendered this fo fenfible to the ear, that a long fyl- 

\ lable 


L xxxvm ^ a ^ e was counte d precifely equal in time to two 
fhort ones. Upon this principle, the number of 
fyllables contained in their hexameter verfe was 
allowed to vary. It may extend to 17; it can 
contain, when regular, no fewer than 13: but the 
mufical time was, notwithstanding, precifely the 
fame in every hexameter verfe, and was always 
equal to that of 12 long fyllables. In order to 
afcertain the regular time of every verfe, and the 
proper mixture and fuccefiion of long and fhort 
fyllables which ought to compofe it, were in- 
vented, what the Grammarians call Metrical Feet, 
Dactyles, Spondees, Iambus, &c. By thefe mea- 
fures was tried the accuracy of Compofition in 
every line, and whether it was fo conftructed as to 
complete its proper melody. It was requifite, for 
inftance, that the hexameter verfe mould have the 
quantity of its fyllables fo difpofed, that it could 
be fcanned or meafured by fix metrical feet, which 
might be either Daclyles or Spondees (as the mu- 
fical time of both thefe is the fame), with this re- 
ftriclion only, that the fifth foot was regularly to 
be a Dactyle, and the laft a Spondee*. 


* Some writers imagine, that the feet in Latin Verfe were 
intended to correfpond to bars in Murk, and to form mufical 
intervals or diftin&ions, fenfible to the ear in the pronunciation 
of the line. Had this been the cafe, every kind of Verfe mutt 
have had a peculiar order of feet appropriated to it. But the 
common profodies fhow, that there are feveral forms of Latin 
Verfe which are capable of being meafured indifferently, by a 




The introduction of thefe feet into Englilh L v ECT - 
Verfe, would be altogether out cf place; for the w-v — -» 
genius of our language correfponds not in this re- 
fpect to the Grec^or Latin. I fay not, that we 
have no regard to quantity, or to long and fhort, 
in pronouncing. Many words we have, efpecially 
our words confiding of feveral fyllables, where the 
quantity, or the long and fhort fyllables, are in- 
variably fixed j but great numbers we have alfo, 
where the quantity is left altogether loofe. This 
is the cafe with a great part -of our words confift- 
ing of two fyllables, and with almoft all our 

feries of feet of very different kinds. For inflance, what is 
called the Afclepedasan Verfe (in which the firft Ode of Horace 
is written) may be fcanned either by a Spondeus, two Chori- 
ambus's, and a Pyrrichius ; or by a Spondeus, a Da&ylus fuc- 
ceeded by a Caefura, and two Daclylus's. The common Pen- 
tameter, and fome other forms of Verfe, admit the like varie- 
ties ; and yet the melody of the Verfe remains always the fame, 
though it be fcanned by different feet. This proves, that the 
metrical feet were not fenfible in the pronunciation of the line, 
but were intended only to regulate its confirmation ; or applied 
as meafures, to try whether the fucceffion of long and fhort fyl- 
lables was fuch as fuited the melody of the Verfe : and as feet 
of different kinds could fometimes be applied for this purpofe, 
hence it happened, that fome forms of Verfe were capable of 
being fcanned in different ways. For meafuring the hexameter 
line, no other feet were found fo proper as Dactyles and Spon- 
dees, and therefore by thefe it is uniformly fcanned. But no 
ear is fenfible of the termination of each foot, in reading an 
hexameter line. From a mifapprehenfion of this matter, I 
apprehend that confufion has fometimes arifen among Writers, 
in treating of the profody both of Latin, and of Englifh Verfe. 

vol, in. h mono- 


L E C T. 


monofyllables. In general, the difference made 
between long and fhort fyllables, in our manner of 
pronouncing them, is fo very inconsiderable, and 
fo much liberty is left us for making them either 
long or fhort at pleafure, that mere quantity is of 
very little effect in Englifh Verification. The 
only perceptible difference among our fyllables, 
arifes from fome of them being uttered with that 
ftronger percuffion of voice, which we call Ac- 
cent. This Accent does not always make the fyl- 
lable longer, but gives it more force of found 
only i and it is upon a certain order and fucceffion 
of accented and unaccented fyllables, infinitely 
more than upon their being long or fhort, that the 
melody of our Verfe depends. If we take any of 
Mr. Pope's lines, and in reciting them alter the 
quantity of the fyllables, as far as our quantities 
are fenfible, the Mufic of the Verfe will not be 
much injured : whereas, if we do not accent the 
fyllables according as the Verfe dictates, its melody 
will be totally dedroyed *. 

* See this well illuftrated in Lord Monboddo's Treatife of 
Origin and Progrefs of Language, Vol. 11. under the head of 
the Profody of Language. He lhows that this is not only the 
conftitation of our own Verfe, but that by our manner of read- 
ing Latin Verfe, we make its Mufic nearly the fame. For we 
July do not pronounce it according to the antient quantities, 
fo as to make the mufical time of one long fyllable equal to two 
fhort ones ; but according to a fucceffion of accented and un- 
accented fyllables, only mixed in a ratio different from that of 
our own Verfe. ' No Roman could poflibly underfland our pro- 



Our Englifli Heroic Verfe is of what may be 
called an Iambic ftructure ; that is, compofed of a 
fucceflion nearly alternate of fyllables, not fhort 
and long;, but unaccented and accented. With 
regard to the place of thefe accents, however, 
fome liberty is admitted, for the fake of variety. 
Very often, though not always, the line begins 
with an unaccented fyllable; and fometimes, in 
the courfe of it two unaccented fyllables follow 
each other. But, in general, there are either five, 
or four, accented fyllables in each line. The 
number of fyllables is ten, unlefs where an Alex- 
andrian Verfe is occafionally admitted. In Verfes 
not Alexandrian, inltances occur where the line 
appears to have more than the limited number. 
But in fuch inftances, I apprehend it will be 
found, that fome of the liquid fyllables are fo 
ilurred in pronouncing, as to bring the Verfe, 
with refpecl to its effect upon the ear, within the 
ufual bounds. 

Another eflfential circumftance in the constitu- 
tion of our Verfe, is the csefural paufe, which falls 
towards the middle of each line. Some paufe of 
this kind, dictated by the melody, is found in the 
Verfe of moft nations. It is found, as might be 
fhewn, in the Latin hexameter. In the French 
Heroic Verfe, it is very fenfible. That is a Verfe 
of twelve fyllables, and in every line, juft after 
the fixth fyllable, there falls regularly and indif- 
penfably, a caefural paufe, dividing the line into 

h 2 two 


I. E C T. 


two equal hemiftichs. For example, in the fir ft 
lines of Boileau's Epiftle to the King. 

Jeune & vaillant heros | dont la haute fagefle 
N'eft point le fruit tardif | d'uue lente vieiHefle, 
Qui feul fans Miniflre | a l'example des Dieux 
Soutiens tout par toi-meme | & vois tous par fes veux. 

In this train all their Verfes proceed j the one half 
of the line always anfwering to the other, and the 
fame chime returning inceflantly on the ear with- 
out intermifiion or change; which is certainly a 
defect in their Verfe, and unfits it fo very much 
for the freedom and dignity of Heroic Poetry. 
On the other hand, it is a diftinguifhing advantage 
of our Englifh Verfe, that it allows the paufe to 
•be varied through four different fyllables in the 
line. The paufe may fall after the 4th, the 5th, 
the 6th, or the 7th fyllable; and according as the 
paufe is placed after one or other of thefe fyllables, 
the melody of the Verfe is much changed, its air 
and cadence are diverfifled. By this means, un- 
common richnefs and variety are added to Englifh 

When the paufe falls earlieft, that is, after the 
4th fyllable, the briifceft melody is thereby formed, 
and the mofl fpirited air given to the line. In the 
following lines of the Rape of the Lock, Mr. 
Pope has, with exquifite propriety, fuited the 
conftruction of the Verfe to the fubject : 



On her white breaft ( a fparkhng crofs fhe wove, xxxvin" 

Which Jews might kifs j and Infidels adore ; 

Her lively looks | a fprightly mind difclofe, 

Quick as her eyes | and as unfix'd as thofe. 

Favours to none | to all Ihe fmiles extends, 

Oft fhe rejecls | but never once offends. 

When the paufe falls after the 5th fyllable, 
which divides the line into two equal portions, the 
melody is fenfibly altered. The Verfe lofes that 
brifk and fprightly air, which it had with the for- 
mer paufe, and becomes more fmooth, gentle, 
and flowing. 

Eternal funfhine { of the fpotlefs mind, 
JLach prayer accepted | and each wifli refign'd. 

When the paufe proceeds to follow the 6th fyl- 
lable, the tenor of the Mufic becomes folemn and 
arave. The Verfe marches now with a more flow 
and meafured pace, than in either of the two for- 
mer cafes. 

The wrath of Peleus' fon ] the direful fpring 
Of all the Grecian woes | O goddefs, fing \ 

But the grave folemn cadence becomes (till 
more fenfible, when the paufe falls after the 7th 
fyllable, which is the neareft place to the end of 
the line that it can occupy. This kind of Verfe 
occurs the feldomeft, but has a happy erTe<5t in 
diverfifying the melody. It produces that flow 
Alexandrian air, which is finely fuited to a clofe ; 
h 3 and 


L X xxvni anc * ^ or tn ' s rea ^ on » f ucri lines almoft never occur 
together, but are ufed in finifhing the couplet. 

And in the fmooth defcription [ murmur ftill. 
Long loved adored ideas ! \ all adieu. 

I have taken my examples from Verfes in 
rhyme j becaufe in thefe, our Verification is fub- 
jected to the ftri&eft law. As Blank Verfe is of a 
freer kind, and naturally is read with lefs cadence 
or tone, the paufes in it, and the effecT: of them, 
are not always fo fenfible to the ear. It is con- 
itructed, however, entirely upon the fame prin- 
ciples, with refpect to the place of the paufe. 
There are fome, who, in order to exalt the variety 
and the power of our Heroic Verfe, have main- 
tained that it admits of mufical paufes, not only 
after thofe four fyllables where 1 affigned their 
place, but after any one fyllable in the Verfe indif- 
ferently, where the fenfe directs it to be placed. 
This, in my opinion, is the fame thing as to 
maintain that there is no paufe at all belonging to 
the natural melody of the Verfe j fince, according 
to this notion, the paufe is formed entirely to the 
meaning, not by the Mufic. But this I appre- 
hend to be contrary both to the nature of Verfifi- 
cation, and to the experience of every good ear *. 


* In the Italian Heroic Verfe employed by TaiTo in his Gie- 
rufalemme, and Ariofto in his Orlando, the paufes are of the 
lame varied nature with thofe which I have mown to belong to 



Thofe certainly are the happieft lines, wherein the L E c T - 

j 1 • • • XXXVIII. 

paufe, prompted by the melody, coincides in fome 
degree with that of the fenfe, or at leafc does not 
tend to fpoil or interrupt the meaning. Wherever 
any opposition between the mufic and the fenfe 
chances to take place, I obferved before, in treat- 
ing of Pronunciation or Delivery, that the proper 
method of reading thefe lines, is to read them ac- 
cording as the fenfe dictates, neglectinpr or flurrin^ 
the caefural paufe; which renders the line lefs grace- 
ful indeed, but, however, does not entirely deftroy 
its found. 

Our Blank Verfe poffefles great advantages, 
and is indeed a noble, bold, and difencumbered 
fpecies of Verification. The principal defect in 
rhyme, is the full clofe which it forces upon the 
ear, at the end of every couplet. Blank Verfe is 
freed from this ; and allows the lines to run into 
each other with as great liberty as the Latin hex- 
ameter permits, perhaps with greater. Hence it 

Englifh Verification, and fall after the fame four fyllabl's in 
the line. Marmontel, in his Poecique Francoife, Vol. I. p. 269, 
takes notice that this confirmation of Verfe is common to the 
Italians and the Englifh ; and defends the uniformity of the 
French casfural paufe upon this ground, that the alternation of 
mafculine and feminine rhymes, furnilhes fufficient variety to 
the French Poetry ; whereas the change of movement, occa- 
sioned by the four different paufes in Englifh and Italian Verfe, 
produces, according to him, too great diverfity. On the hesd 
of paufes in Englifh Verification, fee the Elements of Criticifm, 
Chap. 18. Se&. a. 

H 4 IS 


is particularly fuited to fubjecls of dignity and 
force, which demand more free and manly num- 
bers than rhyme. The conftraint and ftrict regu- 
larity of rhyme, are unfavourable to the iublime, or 
to the highly pathetic {train. An Epic Poem, or 
a Tragedy, would be fettered and degraded by it. 
It is beit adapted to compofitions of a temperate 
drain, where no particular vehemence is required 
in the Sentiments, nor great fublimity in the Style; 
fuch as Paftorals, Elegies, Epiftks, Satires, &c. 
To thefe it communicates that degree of elevation 
which is proper for them ; and without any other 
afllftance fufficientlv diftinguifhes the Style from 
Profe. He who mould write fuch Poems in Blank 
Verfe, would render his work harih and unpleafing. 
In order to fupport a poetical Style, he would be 
obliged to affect a pomp of language, unfuitable to 
the fubject. 

Though I join in opinion with thofe, who 
think that rhyme finds its proper place in the 
middle, but not in the higher regions of Poetry, 
I can by no means join in the invedtives which 
fome have poured out againft it, as if it were a 
mere barbarous jingling of founds, fit only for 
children, and owing to nothing but the corruption 
of tafte in the monkifh ages. Rhyme might in- 
deed be barbarous in Latin or Greek Verfe, becaufe 
thefe languages, by the fonoroufnels of their words, 
by their liberty of tranfpofition and inverfion, by 
their fixed quantities and mufical pronunciation, 
6 could 


could carrv on the melody of verfe without its aid. L E c T - 


But it does not follow, that therefore it mud be 
barbarous in the Lnglifh language, which is def- 
titute of thefe advantages. Every language has 
powers and graces, and mafic peculiar to itfelf; 
and what is becoming in one, would be ridiculous 
in another. Rhyme was barbarous in Latin; and 
an attempt to conftruct Englifh Verfes, after the 
form of hexameters, and pentameters, and Sap- 
phics, is as barbarous among us. It is not true, 
that rhyme is merely a monkifh. invention. On 
the contrary, it has obtained under different forms, 
in the Verification of moil known nations. It is 
found in the Antient Poetry of the northern nations 
of Europe ; it is faid to be found among the 
Arabs, the Perfians, the Indians, and the Ame- 
ricans. This fhows that there is fomething in the 
return of fimilar founds, which is grateful to the 
ears of moft part of mankind. And if any one, 
after reading Mr. Pope's Rape of the Lock, or 
Eloifa to Abelard, mail not admit our rhyme, 
with all its varieties of paufes, to carry both ele- 
gance, and fweetnefs of found, his ear niuft be 
pronounced to be of a very peculiar kind. 

The prefent form of our Englifh heroic rhyme 
in couplets, is a modern fpecies of Verfification. 
The meafure generally ufed in the days of Queen 
Elizabeth, King James, and King Charles I. 
was the ftanza of eight lines, fuch as Spencer em- 
ploys, borrowed from the Italian; a meafure very 



conftrained and artificial. Waller was the firft 
who brought couplets into vogue j and Dryden 
afterwards eftablifhed the ufage. Waller firft 
fmoothed our Verfe; Dryden perfected it. Mr. 
Pope's Verfification has a peculiar character. It 
is flowing and fmooth in the higheft degree j far 
more laboured and correct than that of any who 
went before him. He introduced one confider- 
able change into Heroic Verfe, by totally 
throwing afide the triplets, or three lines rhym- 
ing together, in which Mr. Dryden abounded. 
Dryden's Verfification, however, has very great 
merit ; and, like all his productions, has much 
fpirit, mixed with careleiTnefs. If not fo fmooth 
and correct as Pope's, it is however more varied 
and eafy. He fubjects himfelf lefs to the rule of 
clofmg the fenfe with the couplet ; and frequently 
takes the liberty of making his couplets run into 
one another, with fomewhat of the freedom of 
Blank Verfe. 



In the laft Lecture, I gave an account of the Rife L E c T * 
and Progrefs of Poetry, and made fome ob- ■_ - w - a 
fervarions on the nature of Englifh Verification. 
I now proceed to treat of the chief kinds of Poeti- 
cal Compofition ; and of the critical rules that 
relate to them. I mall follow that order which is 
moft fimple and natural j beginning with the lefTer 
forms of Poetry, and afcending from them to the 
Epic and Dramatic, as the moft dignified. This 
Lecture (hall be employed on Paftoral and Lyric 

Though I begin with the confideration of Paf- 
toral Poetry, it is not becaufe I confider it as one 
of the earliefr. forms of Poetical Compofition. On 
the contrary, I am of opinion that it was not cul- 
tivated as a diftincTt fpecies, or fubje6t of Writing, 
until Society had advanced in refinement. Moft 
Authors have indeed indulged the fancy, that be- 
caufe the life which mankind at firft led was rural, 




i e c t. therefore their firft Poetry was Paftoral, or em- 


ployed In the celebration of rural fcenes and objects. 
I make no doubt, that it would borrow many of 
its images and allufions from thofe natural objects, 
with which men were beft acquainted ; but I am 
perfuadcd that the calm and tranquil fcenes of rural 
felicity were not, by any means, the firft objects 
which infpired that ftrain of Compofition, which 
we now call Poetry. It was infpired, in the firft 
periods of every nation, by events and objects 
which roufed men's paflions j or, at lead, awakened 
their wonder and admiration. The actions of their 
Gods and Heroes, their own exploits in war, the 
fuccefTes or misfortunes of their countrymen and 
friends, furnifhed the firft Themes to the Bards of 
every country. What was of a Paftoral kind in 
their Compofitions, was incidental only. They 
did not think of chufing for their Theme, the tran- 
quillity and the pleafures of the country, as long 
as thefe were daily and familiar objects to them. 
It was not till men had begun to be afTembled in 
great cities, after the diftinctions of rank and fta- 
tion were formed, and the buftie of Courts and 
large Societies was known, that Paftoral Poetry 
aiTumed its prefent form. Men then began to 
look back upon the more fimple and innocent life, 
which their forefathers led, or which, at leaft, they 
fancied them to have led : they looked back upon 
it with pleafure •, and in thofe rural fcenes, and 
paftoral occupations, imagining a degree of feli- 
city to take place, fuperiox to what they now 



enjoyed, conceived the idea of celebrating it in L E c t. 


Poetry. It was in the court of King Ptolemy, 
that Theocritus wrote the firft Paftorals with which 
we are acquainted; and, in the court of Auguftus, 
he was imitated by Virgil. 

But whatever may have been the origin of 
Paftoral Poetry, it is, undoubtedly, a natural, and 
very agreeable form of Poetical Compofition. It 
recalls to our imagination, thofe gay fcenes, and 
pleafmg views of nature, which commonly are the 
delight of our childhood and youth; and to which, 
in more advanced years, the greateft part of men 
recur with pleafure. It exhibits to us a life, with 
which we are accuftomed to afTociate the ideas of 
peace, of lei fur e, and of innocence; and, there- 
fore, we readily fet open our heart to fuch repre- 
fentations as promife to baniih from our thoughts 
the cares of the world, and to tranfport us into 
calm Elyfian regions. At the fame time, no 
fubject feems to be more favourable to Poetry. 
Amidft rural objects, nature prefents, on all 
hands, the fined field for defcription; and nothing 
appears to flow more, of its own accord, into 
Poetical Numbers, than rivers and mountains, 
meadow r s and hills, flocks and trees, and fhepherds 
void of care. Hence, this fpecies of Poetry has, x 
at all times, allured many Readers, and excited 
many Writers. Bur, notwithstanding the advan- 
tages it pofTeffes, it will appear, from what I have 
farther to obferve upon it, that there is hardly any 



L xxxix T ' *P ec * es °f P° etr y which is more difficult to be car- 
»-— y - — » ried to perfection, or in which fewer Writers have 

Pastoral life may be confidered in three dif- 
ferent views ; either fuch as it now actually is; 
when the (late of fhepherds is reduced to be a 
mean, fervile, and laborious flate ; when their 
employments are become difagreeable, and their 
Ideas grofs and low : or fuch as we may fuppofe it 
once to have been, in the more early and fimple 
ages, when it was a life of eafe and abundance ; 
when the wealth of men confided chiefly in flocks 
and herds, and the fhepherd, though unrefined in 
his manners, was refpectable in his date: or, 
laftly, fuch as it never was, and never can in reality 
be, when, to the eafe, innocence, and fimplicity 
of the early ages, we attempt to add the polifhed 
tade, and cultivated manners, of modern times. 
Of thefe three dates, the firft is too grofs and 
mean, the lad too refined and unnatural, to be 
made the ground-work of Padoral Poetry. Either 
of thefe extremes is a rock upon which the Poet 
will fplit, if he approach too near it. We fhall 
be difguded if he give us too much of the fervile 
employments and low ideas of actual peafants, as 
Theocritus is cenfured for having fometimes done; 
and if, like fome of the French and Italian Writers 
of Padorals, he makes his Shepherds difcourfe as 
if they were courtiers and fcholars, he then retains 
the name only, but wants the fpirit of Padoral 



He mud, therefore, keep in the middle ftation L F - c T * 
between thefe. He rauft form to himfclf the idea 
of a rural ftate, fuch as in certain periods of So- 
ciety may have actually taken place, where there 
was eafe, equality, and innocence •, where Shep- 
herds were gay and agreeable, without being 
learned or refined ; and plain and artlefs, without 
being grofs and wretched. The great charm of 
Paftoral Poetry arifes from the view which it ex- 
hibits of the tranquillity and happinefs of a rural 
life. This pleafing illufion, therefore, the Poet 
muft carefully maintain. He mud difplay to us, 
all that is agreeable in that ftate, but hide what- 
ever is difplealing *. Let him paint its fimplicity 


* In the following beautiful lines of the firft Eclogue, Virgil 
has, in the true fpirit of a Paftoral Poet, brought together as 
agreeable an affcmblage of images of rural pleafure as can any 
where be found. 

Fortunate fenex ! hie inter flumina nota, 
Et fontes facros, frigus captabis opacurn. 
Hinc tibi, qua? femper vicino ab limite fepes, 
Hyblaeis apibus, florem depafta falicti, 
Siepe levi fomnum fuadebit inire fufurro, 
PHnc aha fub rupe canet froncator ad auras ; 
Nee tamen interea, raucs;, tua cura, palurnbes, 
Nee gemere aeria cefiabit tar cur ab ulmo. 

Happy old man ! here mid th' accuftom'd dreams 
And facred fprings you'i! fhun the fcorching beams ; 
. WIilc from yon willow fence, thy pafiure's bound, 
The bees that fuck their flowery ftores around, 

5 Sh^ 


and innocence to the full; but cover its rudenefs 
and mifery. DiftrefTes, indeed, and anxieties, he 
may attribute to it; for it would be perfectly un- 
natural to fuppofe any condition of human life to 
be without them; but they muft be of fuch a na- 
ture, as not to (hock the fancy with any thing 
peculiarly difgufting in the Paftoral life. The 
Shepherd may well be afflicted for the difpleafure 
of his miftrefs, or for the lofs of a favourite lamb. 
It is a fufficient recommendation of any (late, to 
have only fuch evils as thefe to deplore. In fhort, 
it is the Paftoral life fomewhat embellifhed and 
beautified, at lead feen on its faireft fide only, that 
the Poet ought to prefent to us. But let him take 
care, that, in embellifhing nature, he do not alto- 
gether difguife her ; or pretend to join with rural 
fimplicity and happinefs, fuch improvements as are 
unnatural and foreign to it. If it be not exactly 
real life which he prefents to us, it muft, however, 
be fomewhat that refembles it. This, in my opi- 
nion, is the general idea of Paftoral Poetry. But, 
in order to examine it more particularly, let us 
confider, firft, the fcenery ; next, the characters 5 

Shall fweetly mingle, with the whifpering boughs, 

Their lulling murmurs, and invite repofe. 

While from iteep rocks the pruner's fong is heard ; 

Nor the foft cooing dove, thy fa v 'rite bird, 

Meanwhile fhall ceafe to breathe her melting (train, 

Nor turtles from th' aerial elms to plain. War ton. 



and laftly, the fubjecls and actions which this fort L- e c t. 
of Compofition fhould exhibit. v— - v— -* 

As to the Scene, it is clear, that it muft always 
be laid in the country, and much of the Poet's 
merit depends on defcribing it beautifully. Virgil 
is, in this refpect, excelled by Theocritus, whofe 
defcriptions of natural beauties are richer, and more 
picturefque than thofe of the other*. In every 


* What rural fcenery, for inftance, can be painted in more 
lively colours, than the following defcription exhibits } 

— — "Iv te paOsiatj 
Ev ti vioTpdroiai ytyct^oriq cuvctptonri, 

Tlo'KkoCi O UlA.fA.IV VTTlfiz XCCTCC, «j«TS5 OGViOiTO* 

Aiyn^oi 'saliXta.i te* to iyy'iQiv legot lo*!p 
NvjAtpav is, ccvr^oio KulaQofAVJot xtXagva$i\i. 

Tot dE 7TOTI <7X,UQM$ OgMX\AHGV) OSll6«Alfc»|5 

TsTTtys? >.x7[uytvv\n; e%gv 'wlvov. a o oX&vyui 
TriXoBm tv ■uSDX.iia.Hai $ctTu<j ■r(>v£ j c&x.iv u,x.a.$a,ic* 
Anson xogvcljt KXi ccxcivQihs) t?m r^vyun' *• 

YIutuvto i-a&ca <mpi 'aloa.x.ccs /xpJpi //.fAwcai . 

n<5tkT UtJdlM Ss^EO^- yuCthX. GuiOVOt; ; UJOi O OTTUfVi' 

' Op^ai [A.ev <taa\ OTosvi, •ma.^a. nz^vj^cuai d\ (**?»«. 
£zytXtoj<; apfAw 1zi/?\jvc?=t&* toi o ix.%ypna 
OpxxKis j3gct (3v?\QK7i x«7aog»6«T£; «§a<7dV 

Theocrit. Idyll, vij. 132. 

■ on foft beds recline 

Of lentifk, and young branches of the vine ; 
Poplars and elms above, their foliage fpread, 
Lent a cool fhade, and wav'd the breezy head ; 
VOX. in. 1 Below, 


L E C T. 

Paftcral, a fcene, or rural profpect, fhould be dif~ 
tinctly drawn, and iet before us. It is not enough, 
that we have thofe unmeaning groupes of violets 
and rofes, of birds, and brooks, and breezes, 
which our common Paftoral-mongers throw toge- 
ther, and which are perpetually recurring upon us 
without variation. A good Poet ought to give us 
fuch a landfcape, as a painter could copy after. 
His objects mud be particularifed j the ftream, 
the rock, or the tree, muft, each of them, (land 
forth, fo as to make a figure in the imagination, 
and to give us a pleafmg conception of the place 
where we are. A fingle object, happily intro- 
duced, will fometimes diftinguifh and characterife 
a whole fcene -, fuch as the antique ruftic Se- 
pulchre, a very beautiful object in a landfcape ; 

Below, a ftream, from the nymph's facred cave, 

In free meanders led its murm'ring wave : 

Tn the warm fun- beams, verdant fhades among, 

Shrill grafshoppers renew'd their plaintive fong: 

At diftance far, conceal'd in (hades, alone, 

Sweet Philomela pour'd her tuneful moan : 

The lark, the goldfinch, warbled lays of love, 

And fweetly penfive, coo'd the turtle dove: 

While honey bees, for ever on the wing, 

Humm'd round the flowers, or fipt the filver fpring. 

The rich, ripe feafon, gratified the fenfe 

With fummer's fweets, and autumn's redolence. 

Apples and pears lay llrew'd in heaps around, 

And the plum's loaded branches kifs'd the ground. 




which Virgil has fet before us, and which he has L X xxixT' 
taken from Theocritus : 

Hinc adeo media eft nobis via 5 jamque fepulchrum 

Incipit apparere Bianoris ; hie ubi denfas 

Agricolse ftringunt frondes— — Ecl. IX. * 

Not only in profeffed defcriptions of the fcenery, 
but in the frequent allufions to natural objects, 
which occur, of courfe, in Paftorals, the Poet 
mull, above all things, ftudy variety. He muft 
diverfify his face of nature, by prefenting to us 
new images ; or otherwife, he will foon become 
infipid with thofe known topics of defcription, 
which were original, it is true, in the firft Poets, 
who copied them from nature, but which are 
now worn threadbare by inceffant imitation. It is 
alfo incumbent on him, to fuit the fcenery to the 
fubjefr. of the Paftoral ; and, according as it is of 
a gay or a melancholy kind, to exhibit nature un- 
der fuch forms as may correfpond with the emotions 
or fentiments which he defcribes. Thus Virgil, in 
his fecond Eclogue, which contains the Lamenta- 
tion of a defpairing Lover, gives, with propriety, 
a gloomy appearance to the fcene : 

* To our mid journey are we come, 

I fee the top of old Bianor's tomb ; 

Here, Mreris, where the fwains thick branches prune, 

And firew their leaves, our voices let us tune. 

W A r t n . 
1 2 Tantum 


L E C T. 


Tantum inter denfas, umbrofu cacumina, fagos, 
Aflidue veniebat; ibi haec incondita folus 
Montibus & fylvis ftudio jadtabat inani *. 

With regard to the characters, or perfons, 
which are proper to be introduced into Paftorals, 
it is not enough that they be perfons refiding in 
the country. The adventures, or the difcourfes 
of courtiers, or citizens, in the country, are not 
what we look for in fuch Writings ; we expect to 
be entertained by Shepherds, or perfons wholly en- 
gaged in rural occupations ; whofe innocence and 
freedom from the cares of the world may, in our 
imagination, form an agreeable contraft with the 
manners and characters of thole who are engaged 
in the buftle of life. 

One of the principal difficulties which here 
occurs has been already hinted j that of keeping 
the exact medium between too much rufticity on 
the one hand, and too much refinement on the 
other. The Shepherd, affuredly, mult be plain 
and unaffected in his manner of thinking, on 
all fubjects. An amiable fimplicity mull: be the 
ground-work of his character. At the fame time, 
there is no neceffity for his being dull and infipid. 

* Mid fhades of thickeft beech he pin'd alone, 
To the wild woods and mountains made his moan ; 
Still day by day, in incoherent flrains, 
'Tw;ii all he could, defpairing told his pains. 

War ton. 

4 He 


He may have good fenfe and reflection ; he may L I c T. 
have fprightlinefs and vivacity; he may have very -_'\ 
tender and delicate feelings; fince thefe are, more 
or lefs, the portion of men in all ranks of life; 
and fince, undoubtedly, there was much genius in 
the world, before there were learning, or arts, to 
refine it. But then he muft not fubtilife; he muft 
noc deal in general reflections, and abftract reafon- 
ing; and ftill lefs in the points and conceits of an 
affected gallantry, which furely belong not to his 
character and fituation. Some of thefe conceits 
are the chief biemilhes of the Italian Paftorals, 
which are otherwife beautiful. When Aminta, in 
Taflb, is difentangling his Miftrefs's hair from the 
tree to which a Savage had bound it, he is repre- 
fented as faying: " Cruel tree ! how couldft thou 
<f injure that lovely hair which did thee fo much 
" honour ? thy rugged trunk was not worthy of 
" fuch lovely knots. What advantage have the 
<f fervants of love, if thofe precious chains are 
<c common to them, and to the trees*?" Such 
ftrained fentiments as thefe, ill befit the woods. 
Rural perfonages are fuppofed to fpeak the lan- 
guage of plain fenfe, and natural feelings. When 

* Gia di nodi fi bei non era degno 
Cofi rovido tronco ; or che vatuaggio 
Ilanno i fervi d' amor, fe lor commune 
E'con le piante il pretiofo laccio r 
Pianta cr udel ! potefti quel bel crine 
Offender, tu, ch'a te feo tanto onore ? 

At to III. Sc. I. 
i 3 they 


L E C T. 

they defcribe, or relate, they do it with fimplicity* 
and naturally allude to rural circumftances ; 2s ia 
thofe beautiful lines of one of Virgil's Eclogues • 

Sepibus in noftris parvam te rofcida mala 
(Dux ego vefter eram) vidi cum matre legentem j 
Alter ab undecimo turn me jam ceperat annus, 
Jam fraglles poteram a terra contingere ramos. 
Ut vidi, ut perii, ut me malus abflulit error *. 

In another paffage, he makes a Shepherdeis 
throw an apple at her lover : 

Turn fugit ad falices, & fe cupit ante videri f . 

This is naive, as the French exprefs it, and 
perfectly fuited to Paftoral manners. Mr. Pope 
wanted to imitate this paffage, and, as he thought^ 
to improve upon it. He does it thus : 

The fprightly Sylvia trips along the green, 
She runs j but hopes fhe does not run unfeen ; 
While a kind glance at her purfuer flies, 
How much at variance are her feet and eyes ! 

* Once with your mother to our fields you came 
For dewy apples ; thence I date my flame ; 
The choiceft fruit I pointed to your view, 
Though young my raptur'd foul was fix'd on you ; 
The boughs I juft could reach with little arms ; 
Bat then, even then, could feel thy powerful charms. 
O, how I gaz'd, in pleafing tranfport toft ! 
How giow'd my heart in fweet delufion loll ! War ton, 

f My Phillis me with pelted apples plies ; 

Then,, tripping to the wood, the wanton hies, 
And willies to be feen before fhe flies. Dryden. 



This falls far fhort of Virgil ; the natural and 
pleafing fimplicity of the defcription is destroyed, 
by the quaint and affected turn in the laft line : 
" How much at variance are her feet and eyes." 

Supposing the Poet to have formed correct 
ideas concerning his Paftoral characters and per- 
fonages j the next enquiry is, About what is he to 
employ them ? and what are to be the fubjecls of 
his Eclogues ? For it is not enough, that he gives 
us Shepherds difcourfing together. Every good 
Poem, of every kind, ought to have a fubject 
which fhould, in fome way, intereft us. Now, 
here, 1 apprehend, lies the chief difficulty of Paf- 
toral Writing. The active fcenes of country life 
either are, or to moft defcribers appear to be, too 
barren of incidents. The ftate of a Shepherd, or 
a perfon occupied in rural employments only, is 
expofed to few of thofe accidents and revolutions 
which render his fituation interefting, or produce 
curiofity or furprife. The tenor of his life is uni- 
form. His ambition is conceived to be without 
policy, and his love without intrigue. Hence it 
is, that, of all Poems, the moft meagre commonly 
in the fubject, and the lead diverfified in the (train, 
is the Paftoral. From the fir ft lines, we can, ge- 
nerally, guefs at all that is to follow. It is either 
a Shepherd who fits down folitary by a brook, to 
lament the abfence or cruelty of his miftrefs, and 
to tell us how the trees wither, and the flowers 
droop, now that Ihe is gone ; or we have two 
1 4 Shepherds 

l e c T. 



L E C T. 

Shepherds who challenge one another to fing, re- 
hearfing alternate verfes, which have little either of 
meaning or fubject, till the Judge rewards one 
with a ftudded crook, and another with a beechen 
bowl. To the frequent repetition of common- 
place topics, of this fort, which have been thrum- 
med over by all Eclogue Writers fince the days of 
Theocritus and Virgil, is owing much of that in- 
fipidity which prevails in Paftoral Compofitions. 

I much queftion, however, whether this infi- 
pidity be not owing to the fault of the Poets, and 
to their barren and flavifh imitation of the antient 
paftoral topics, rather than to the confined nature 
of the fubjecT:. For why may not Paftoral Poetry 
take a wider range ? Human nature, and human 
paMions, are much the fame in every rank of life; 
and wherever thefe paflions operate on objects that 
are within the rural fphere, there may be a proper 
fubject for Paftoral. One would indeed choofe to 
remove from this fort of Compofition the opera- 
tions of violent and direful paffions, and to prefent 
fuch only as are confiftent with innocence, (impli- 
cit) 7 , and virtue. But under this limitation, there 
will ftill be abundant fcope for a careful obfefver 
of nature to exert his genius. The various ad- 
ventures which oive occafion to thofe engaged in 
country life to difplay their difpofition and temper; 
the fcenes of domeftic felicity or difquiet; the at- 
tachment of friends and of brothers; the rivalfhip 
and competitions of lovers ; the unexpected fuc- 



cefles or misfortunes of families, might give occa- 
fion to many a pleafing and tender incident; and 
were more of the narrative and fentimental inter- 
mixed with the defcriprive in this kind of Poetry, 
it would become much more interefting than it 
now generally is, to the bulk of readers*. 

The two great fathers of Paftoral Poetry are, 
Theocritus and Virgil. Theocritus was a Sicilian ; 
and as he has laid the fcene of his Eclogues in his 
own country, Sicily became ever afterwards a fort 
of confecrated ground for Paftoral Poetry. His 
Idyllia, as he has entitled them, are not all of equal 
merit; nor indeed are they all Paitorals; but fome 
of them, poems of a quite different nature. In 
fuch, however, as are properly Paftorals, there 
are many and great beauties. He is diftinguifhed 
for the fimplicity of his fentiments j for the great 
fweetnefs and harmony of his numbers, and for the 
richnefs of his fcenery and deicription. He is the 
original, of which Virgil is the imitator. For 
moft of Virgil's higheft beauties in his Eclogues 
are copied from Theocritus ; in many places he 
has done nothing more than tranflate him. He 
muft be allowed, however, to have imitated him 
with great judgment, and in fome refpects to have 

* The above obfervations on the barrenness of the common 

Eclogues were written before any tranfiation from the German 

had made us acquainted in this country with Gefner's Idylls, in 

- which the ideas that had occurred to me for the improvement cf 

Paftoral Poetry, are fully realized. 



\xx T * ^ m P rcvec ^ upon him. For Theocritus, it cannot 
be denied, delcends fometimes into ideas that are 
grofs and mean, and makes his fhepherds abufive 
and immodefl ; whereas Virgil is free from offen- 
sive rufiicity, and at the fame time preferves the 
character of paftoral fimplicity. The fame dif- 
tinction obtains between Theocritus and Virgil, 
as between many other of the Greek and Roman 
writers. The Greek led the way, followed nature 
more clofely, and mowed more original genius. 
The Roman difcovered more of the polifh and 
correctness of art. We have a few remains of 
other two Greek Poets in the Paftoral Style, 
Mofchus and Bion, which have very confiderable 
merit; and if they want the fimplicity of Theo- 
critus, excel him in tendernefs and delicacy. 

The modern Writers of Paftorals have, gene- 
rally, contented themfelves with copying, or imi- 
tating, the defcriptions and fentiments of the an- 
tient Poets. Sannazarius, indeed, a famous Latin 
Poet, in the age of Leo X. attempted a bold 
innovation. He compofed Pifcatory Eclogues j 
changing the fcene from Woods to the Sea, and 
from the life of Shepherds to that of Fifhermen. 
But the innovation was fo unhappy, that he has 
gainecl no followers. For the life of Fifhermen 
i?, obvioufly, much more hard and toilfome than 
that of Shepherds, and prefents to the fancy much 
Sefs agreeable images. Flecks, and trees, and 
- v"rs, are objects of greater beauty, and more 



generally reliihed by men, than fifties and marine l e c t. 


productions. Of all the Moderns,. M. Gefner, a 
Poet of Switzerland, has been the moft fuccefsful 
in his Paftoral Compofitions. He has introduced 
into his Idylls (as he entitles them) many new 
ideas. His rural fcenery is often ftriking, and his 
defcriptions are lively. He prefents paftoral life 
to us, with all the embellifhments of which it is 
fufceptible ; but without any excefs of refinement. 
What forms the chief merit of this Poet, is, that 
he writes to the heart ; and has enriched the fub- 
jects of his Idylls with incidents which give rife to 
much tender fentiment. Scenes of domeftic feli- 
city are beautifully painted. The mutual affection 
of hufbands and wives, of parents and children, 
of brothers and filters, as well as of lovers, are 
difplayed in a pleafing and touching manner. 
From not underftanding the language in which 
M. Gefner writes, I can be no judge of the 
Poetry of his Style : but, in the fubject and 
conduct of his Paftorals, he appears to me to 
have outdone all the Moderns. 

Neither Mr. Pope's, nor Mr. Philips's Paf- 
torals, do any great honour to the Englifh. Poetry. 
Mr. Pope's were compofed in his youth ; which 
may be an apology for other faults, but cannot 
well excufe the barrennefs that appears in them. 
They are written in remarkably fmooth and flow- 
ing numbers : and this is their chief merit ; for 
jhere is fcarcely any thought in them which can 



L xxxix T * ^ e called his own; fcarcely any defcription, or any 
image of nature, which has the marks of being 
original, or copied from nature herfelf j but a re- 
petition of the common images that are to be 
found in Virgil, and in all Poets who write of 
rural themes. Philips attempted to be more 
fimple and natural than Pope ; but he wanted 
genius to fupport his attempt, or to write agree- 
ably. He, too, runs on the common and beaten 
topics ; and endeavouring to be fimple, he be- 
comes flat and infipid. There was no fmall com- 
petition between thefe two Authors, at the time 
when their Paftorals were publifhed. In fome 
Papers of the Guardian, great partiality was 
fhown to Philips, and high praife beftowed upon 
him. Mr. Pope, refenting this preference, under 
a feigned name, procured a paper to be inferted 
in the Guardian, wherein he feemingly carries on 
the plan of extolling Philips ; but in reality lati- 
riies him molt feverely with ironical praifes j and, 
in an artful covered manner, gives the palm to 
himfelf*. About the fame time, Mr. Gay pub- 
lifhed his Shepherd's Week, in Six Paftorals, 
which are defigned to ridicule that fort of fimpli- 
city which Philips and his partizans extolled, and 
are, indeed, an ingenious burlefque of Paftoral 
Writing, when it rifes no higher than the manners 
of modern clowns and ruftics. Mr. Shenftone's 
Paftoral Ballad, in four parts, may juftly be rec- 

* See Guardian, No. 40. 



koned, I think, one of the mod elegant Poems of L X xxi>7* 
this kind, which we have in Englifh. u.-,—. a 

I have not yet mentioned one form in which 
Paftoral Writing has appeared in latter ages, that 
is, when extended into a Play, or regular Drama, 
where plot, characters, and paffions, are joined 
with the fimplicity and innocence of rural man- 
ners. This is the chief improvement which the 
Moderns have made on this fpecies of Compofi- 
tion •, and of this nature, we have two Italian 
pieces which are much celebrated, Guarini's Paf- 
tor Fido, and Taflb's Aminta. Both of thefe 
poffefs great beauties, and are entitled to the re- 
putation they have gained. To the latter the 
preference feems due, as being lefs intricate in the 
plot and conduct:, and lefs drained and affected in 
the fentiments ; and though not wholly free from 
Italian refinement (of which I already gave one 
inftance, the word, indeed, that occurs in all the 
Poem), it is, on the whole, a performance of 
high merit. The drain of the Poetry is gentle 
and pleafingj and the Italian language contributes 
to add much of that foftnefs, which is peculiarly 
fuited to Padoral *. 


* It may be proper to take notice here, that the charge 
againft TafTo for his points and conceits, has fometimes been, 
carried too far. Mr. Addifon, for inftance, in a Paper of the 
Guardian, cenfuring his Aminta, gives this example, " That 
" Sylvia enters adorned with a garland of fhwers, and after 

" viewing 


l e c t. I must not omit the mention of another Paf- 


toral Drama, which will bear being brought into 


" viewing herfelf in a fountain, breaks out in a fpeech to the 
*' flowers on her head, and tells them, that lhe did no: wear 
" them to adcrn herfelf, but to make them afhamed." *' Who- 
'* ever can bear this," he adds, " may be aflured, that he has 
*« no tafle for Paftoral." Guard. No. 38. But Tafib's Sylvia, 
in truth, makes no fuch ridiculous figure, and we are obliged 
to fufpett that Mr. Addifon had not read the Aminta. Daphne, 
a companion of Sylvia, appears in conversation with Thyrfis, 
the confident of Aminta, Sylvia's lover, and in order to fhew 
him, that Sylvia was not fo fimple, or infenfible to her own 
charms, as lhe arretted to be, gives him this inftance ; that (he 
had caught her one day adjufting her drefs by a fountain, and 
applying now one flower, and now another to her neck ; and 
after comparing their colours with her own, lhe broke into a 
fmile, as if ftie had feemed to iay, I will wear you, not for my 
ornaments, *ut to fhew how much you yield to me : and when 
caught thus admiring herfelf, She threw away her flowers, and 

blufhed for fhame. This defcription of the vanity of a 

rural coquette, is no more than what is natural, and very diffe- 
rent from what the Author of the Guardian reprefcnts it. 

This cenfure on TafTo was not originally Mr. Addifon's. 
Bouhours, in his Maniere de bien penfer dans Us cu-vrages d'e/prit, 
appears to have been the firfr. who gave this mifreprefentation 
of Sylvia's Speech, and founded a criticifm on it. Fontenelle., 
in his Difcourfe on Paftoral Poetry, followed him in this criti- 
cifm. Mr. Addifon, or whoever was the Author of that Paper 
in the Guardian, copied from them both. Mr. War ton, in the 
Prefatory Difcourfe to his Tranflation of Virgil's Eclogues, 
repeats the observation. Sylvia's Speech to the Flowers, 
with which fhe was adorned, is always quoted as the flagrant 
inftance of the falle tafte of the Italian Poets. Whereas, Taflb 
gives us no fuch Speech of Sylvia's, but only informs us of 
what her companion fuppofed her to be thinking, or faying to 
7 herfelf* 


companion with any Compofition of this kind, L xx Jr x T * 
in any language j that is, Allan Ramfay's Gentle 

herfelf, when fhe was privately admiring her own beauty. 
After charging To many eminent Critics, for having fallen into 
this ftrange inaccuracy, from copying one another, without 
looking into the Author whom they cenfure, it is necefTary for 
me to infert the paflage which has occafioned this remark. 
Daphne fpeaks thus to Thyrfis : 

Hora per dirti il ver, non mi refolvo 

Si Silvia e femplicetta, come pare 

A le parole, a gli atti. Hier vidi un fegno 

Che me ne mette in dubbio. Io la trovai 

La prefTo la cittade in quei gran prati, 

Ove fra ftagni grace un ifoletta, 

Sovra efTa un lago limpido e tranquillo, 

Tutta pendente in atto, che parea 

Vagheggiar fe medefma, e'nfieme infieme 

Chieder conhglio a 1'acque, in qual maniera 

Difpor dovefTe in fu la fronte i crini, 

E fovra i crini il velo, e fovral velo 

I fior, che tenea in grembo; e fpeffo fpeflb 

Hor prendeva un liguflro, hor una rofa, 

E l'accoftava al bel candido collo, 

A le guancie vermiglie, e de colori 

Fea paragone ; e poi, ficome lieta 

De la vittoria, lampeggiava un rifo 

Che parea che diceflfe : io pur vi vinco ; 

Ni porto voi per ornamento mio, 

Ma porto voi fol per vergogna voftra, 

Perche fi veggife quanto mi cedete. 

Ma mentre ella s'ornava, e vagheggiava 

Rivolfi gli occhi a cafo, e fi fu accorta 

Ch'io di la m'era accorta, e vergognando, 

Rixzofi toftc, e i fior lafcio cadere ; 

In tanto io piu ridea del fuo roflbre, 

Ella piu s'an-ofiia del rifo mio. 

Am i nt a. Atto II. Sc. ii. 



L vvYiy T ' Shepherd. It is a great difadvantage to this 
beautiful Poem, that it is written in the old ruftic 
dialect of Scotland, which, in a fhort time, will 
probably be entirely cbfolete, and not intelligible ; 
and it is a farther difadvantage, that it is fo en- 
tirely formed on the rural manners of Scotland, 
that none but a native of that country can tho- 
roughly underftand, or relifh it. But, though 
iubject to thefe local difadvantages, which confine 
its reputation within narrow limits, it is full of fo 
much natural defer iption, and tender fentiment, 
as would do honour to any Poet. The characters 
are well drawn, the incidents affecting; the fcenery 
and manners lively and juft. It affords a ftrong 
proof, both of the power which nature and fimpli- 
city poflefs, to reach the heart in every fort of 
Writing; and of the variety of pleafing characters 
and fubjects, with which Paitoral Poetry, when 
properly managed, is capable of being enlivened. 

I proceed next to treat of Lyric Poetry, or 
the Ode ; a fpecies of Poetical Compofition which 
pofleffes much dignity, and in which many Writers 
have diftinguifhed themfelves, in every age. Its 
peculiar character is, that it is intended to be fung, 
or accompanied with mufic. Its defignation im- 
plies this. Ode is, in Greek, the Tame with 
Song or Hymn ; and Lyric Poetry imports, that 
the Verfes are accompanied with a lyre, or mufical 
inftrument. This diftinction was not, at firft, 
peculiar to any one fpecies of Poetry. For, as I 



obferved in the laft Lecture, Mufic and Poetry 
were coeval, and were, originally, always joined 
together. But after their reparation took place, 
after Bards had begun to make Verfe Cornpofi- 
tions, which were to be recited or read, not to be 
lung, fuch Poems as were defigned to be full 
joined with Mufic or Song, were, by way of dif- 
tinction, called Odes. 

In the Ode, therefore, Poetry retains its fir ft 
and mod antient form ; that form, under which 
the original Bards poured forth their enthufialtic 
(trains, praifed their Gods and their Heroes, cele- 
brated their victories, and lamented their misfor- 
tunes. It is from this circumilance. of the Ode's 
being fuppofed to retain its original union with 
Mufic, that we are to deduce the proper idea, and 
the peculiar qualities of this kind of Poetry. It is 
not diftinguifhed from other kinds, by the fubjects 
on which it is employed ; for thefe may be ex- 
tremely various. I know no diftinction of fubject 
that belongs to it, except that other Poems are 
often employed in the recital of actions, whereas 
fentiments, of one kind or other, form, almoft 
always, the fubject of the Ode. But it is chiefly 
the fpirit, the manner of its execution, that marks 
and characterifes it. Mufic and Song naturally 
add to the warmth of Poetry. They tend to tranf- 
port, in a higher degree, both the perfbn who 
fings, and the perfons who hear. They juflify, 
therefore, a bolder and more paffionate drain, than 
vol. in. k can 


can be fupported in Hmple recitation. On this is 
formed the peculiar character of the Ode. Hence, 
the enthufiafm t/iat belongs to it, and the liberties 
it is allowed to take, beyond any other fpecies of 
Poetry. Hence, that neglect of regularity, thofe 
digreflions, and that diforder which it is fuppofed 
to admit; and which, indeed, molt Lyric Poets 
have not failed fufficiently to exemplify in their 

The effects of Mufic upon the mind are chiefly 
two; to raife it above its ordinary fiate, and fill it 
with high enthufiaftic emotions ; or to foothe, and 
melt it into the gentle pleaftirable feelings. Hence, 
the Ode may either afpire to the former character 
of the fublirne and noble, or it may defcend to the 
latter, of the pleafant and the gay ; and between 
thefe there is, alfo, a middle region, of the mild 
and temperate emotions, which the Ode may often 
occupy to -advantage. 

All Odes may be comprifed under four deno- 
minations. Firft, Sacred Odes; Hymns addrefled 
to God, or compofed on religious fubjects. Of 
this nature are the Pfalms of David, which ex- 
hibit to us this fpecies of Lyric Poetry in its 
higheft degree of perfection. Secondly, Heroic 
Odes, which are employed in the praife of heroes, 
and in the celebration of martial exploits and great 
actions. Of this kind are all Pindar's Odes, and 
fome few of Horace's. Thefe two kinds ought to 



have fublimity and elevation, for their reigning 
character. Thirdly, Moral and Philcfophical Odes, 
where the fentiments are chiefly infpired by virtue, 
friendfhip, and humanity. Of this kind, are many 
of Horace's Odes, and feveral of our beft modern 
Lyric productions ; and here the Ode poifelTes that 
middle region, which, as I obferved, it fomecimes 
occupies. Fourthly, Feftive and Amorous Odes, 
calculated merely for pleafure and amufemenc. Of 
this nature, are all Anacreon's ; fome of Horace's ; 
and a great number of fongs and modern produc- 
tions, that claim to be of the Lyric fpecies. The 
reigning character of thefe, ought to be elegance, 
fmoothnefs, and gaiety. 

One of the chief diffiulties in compofing Odes, 
arifes from that enthufiafm which is underflood to 
be a characteriftic of Lyric Poetry. A profeffed 
Ode, even of the moral kind, but more efpecially 
if it attempt the fublime, is expected to be en- 
livened and animated, in an uncommon degree. 
Full of this idea, the Poet, when he begins to 
write an Ode, if he has any real warmth of genius, 
is apt to deliver himfelf up to ir, without controul 
or reftramt; if he has it not, he drains after it, 
and thinks himfelf bound to afiume the appearance 
of being all fervour, and all iiame. In either 
cafe, he is in great hazard of becoming extrava- 
gant. The licentioufnefs of writing without order, 
method, or connection, has infected the Ode more 
than any other fpecies of Poetry. Hence, in the 

k 2 clafs 


L E C T. 

elafs of Heroic Odes, we find fo few that one can 
read with pleafure. The Poec is out of fight, in 
a moment. He gets up into the clouds ; becomes 
fo abrupt in his transitions; fo eccentric and irre- 
gular in his motions, and of courfe fo obfeure, that 
we effay in vain to follow him, or to partake of 
his raptures. I do not require, that an Ode mould 
be as regular in the flructure of its parts, as a 
Didactic, or an Epic Poem. But (till, in every 
Compofition, there ought to be a fubject j there 
ought to be parts which make up a whole ; there 
fhould be a connection of thofe parts with one 
another. The transitions from thought to thought 
may be light and delicate, fuch as are prompted 
by a lively fancy; but dill they fhould be fuch as 
preferve the connection of ideas, and fhow the 
Author to be one who thinks, and not one who 
raves. Whatever authority may be pleaded for the 
incoherence and diforder of Lyric Poetry, nothing 
can be more certain, than that any compofition 
which is fo irregular in its method, as to become 
obfeure to the bulk of Readers, is fo much worfe 
upon that account *. 


* " La plupart des ceux qui parlent de I'enthoufiafme de 
" i'oJe, en parlent comme s'ils etoient eux-memes dans le 
" trouble qu'ils veulent definir. Ce ne font que grands mots 
" de fureur divine, de tranfports de Tame, de mouvemens, de 
** himieres, qui mis bout-a-bout dans des phrafes pompeufes, 
" ne produiA'.nt pourtant aucune idee diflindle. Si on les en 
" crcit,, 1'eiFence dc llenthDuliafihfi eft de ne pouvoir etre com- 

" pris 


The extravagant liberty which feveral of the ^xxix.' 
modern Lyric Writers affume to themfelves in the 
Verification, increafes the diforder of this fpecies 
of Poetry. They prolong their periods to fuch a 
degree, they wander through fo many different 
meafures, and employ fuch a variety of long and 
fhort lines, correfponding in rhyme at fo great a 
diftance from each other, that all fenfe of melody 
is utterly loft. Whereas Lyric Compofition oughr, 
beyond every other fpecies of Poetry, to pay at- 
tention to melody and beauty of found ; and the 
Verification of thofe Odes may be juftly accounted 
the beft, which renders the harmony of the meafure 
mod fenfible to every common ear. 

" pris que par les efprits du premiere ordre, a la tete deiquels 
" ils fe fuppofent, et dont ils excluent tous ceux que ofent ne 
" les pas entendre. — Le beau defordre de l'ode eft un effet de 
" Part) mais il faut prendre garde de donner trop d'etendue a 
" ce terme. On autoriferoit par la tous les ecarts imaginables. 
" Un poete n'auroit plus qu'a exprimer avec force toutes les 
«* peniees qui lui viendroient fucceffivement ; il fe tiendroit 
" difpenfe d'en examiner le rapport, et de fe faire un plan, dont 
" toutes les parties fe pretaffent mutuellement des beautes. 
" II n T y auroit ni commencement, ni milieu, ni fin, dans fon 
" ouvrage ; et cependant l'auteur fe croiroit d'autant plus fub- 
" lime, qu'il feroit moins raifonable. Mais qui produiroit une 
" pareille competition dans l'efpritdu lecleur ? Elle ne laifferoit 
" qu'un etourdiffemenr, caufe par la magnificence et l'har- 
" monie des paroles, fans y faire naitre que des idees confufes, 
•' qui chafleroient l'une on l'autre, au lieu de concourir enfemble 
" a fixer et a. eclairer l'efprit." Oeuvres de M. De la 
Motte, tome I. Difcours fur l'Ode. 

K 3 Pindar, 


L xxxix T * Pindar, the great Father of Lyric Poetry, has 
t ■ — v- — i been the occaiion of leading his imitators into fonie 
of the defects I have now mentioned. His genius 
was fublime; his expreffions are beautiful and 
happy; his defcriptions picturefque. But finding 
it a very barren fubject to fing the praifes of thole 
who had gained the prize in the public games, he 
is perpetually digreffive, and fills up his Poems 
with Fables of the Gods and Heroes, that have 
little connection either with his fubject, or with 
one another. The Antients admired him greatly; 
but as many of the hiftories of particular families 
and cities to which he alludes, are now unknown 
to us, he is fo obfeure, partly from his fubjects, 
and partly from his rapid, abrupt manner of treat- 
ing them, that, notwithstanding the beauty of his 
expreffion, our pleafure in reading him is much 
diminifhed. One would imagine, that many of 
his modern imitators thought the belt way to catch 
his fpirit, was to imitate his diforder and obfeurity. 
In feveral of the chorufes of Euripides and So- 
phocles, we have the fame kind of Lyric Poetry 
as in Pindar, carried on with more clearnefs and 
connection, and at the fame time with much fub- 

Of all the writers of Odes, Antient or Modern, 
there is none, that, in point of correctnefs, har- 
mony, and happy expreffion, can vie with Horace. 
He has defcended from the Pindaric rapture to a 
more moderate degree of elevation; and joins con- 


necled thought, and good fenfe, with the higheft 
beauties of Poetry. He does not often afpire 
beyond that middle region, which I mentioned as 
belonging to the Ode j and thofe Odes, in which 
he attempts the fublime, are perhaps not always 
his beft *. The peculiar character, in which he 
excels, is grace and elegance j and in this Style 
of Compofition, no Poet has ever attained to a 
greater perfection than Horace. No Poet fup- 
ports a moral fentiment with more dignity, touches 
a gay one more happily, or pofTefTes the art of 
trifling more agreeably when he chufes to trifle. 
His language is fo fortunate, that with a Tingle 
word or epithet, he often conveys a whole defcrip- 
tion to the fancy. Hence he ever has been, and 
ever will continue to be, a favourite Author with 
all peribns of tafte. 

Among the Latin Poets of later ages, there have 
been many imitators of Horace. On« of the mod 
ciftinguilhed is Cafimir, a Polifh Poet of the lad 
century, who wrore four books of Odes. In 
graceful eafe of expreffion, he is far inferior to the 

* There is ro Ode whatever of Horace's, without great 
beauties. But though I may be lingular in my opinion, I can- 
not help thinking that in fome of thofe Odes which have been 
much admired for fublimity (luch as Ode iv. Lib. 4. " Qnalem 
" mini ftrum fulminis alitem," Sec) there appears fomewhat 
pf a ilrained and forced effort to be lofty. The genius of this 
amiable Poet mows itfelf, according to my judgment, to greater 
cvdvantage, in themes of a more temperate kind. 

k 4 Roman* 


L Jr, c T - Roman. He ofcener affects the fublime ; and in 


the attempt, like other Lyric Writers, frequently 
becomes harfh and unnatural. But, on feveral 
occafions, he difcovers a confiderable degree of 
original genius, and poetical fire. Buchanan, in 
fome of his Lyric Compofitions, is very elegant 
and claflical. 

Among the French, the Odes of Jean Baptifte 
RoufTeau, have been much and juftly celebrated. 
They poftefs great beauty, both of fentiment and 
expreffion. They are animated, without being 
rhapfodical ; and are not inferior to any poetical 
productions in the French language. 

In our own Language, we have feveral Lyric 
Compofitions of confiderable merit. Dryden's 
Ode on St. .Cecilia, is well known. Mr. Gray is 
diftinguifhed in fome of his Odes, both for ten- 
dernefs and fublimity; and in Dodfley's Mifcel- 
lanies, feveral very beautiful Lyric Poems are to 
be found. As to profefied Pindaric Odes, they 
are, with a few exceptions, fo incoherent, as fel- 
dom to be intelligible. Cowley, at all times harfh, 
is doubly fo in his Pindaric Compofitions. In his 
Anacreontic Odes, he is much happier. They are 
fmooth and elegant ; and, indeed, the molt agree- 
able, and the molt perfect, in their kind, of all 
Mr, Cowley's Poems. 



aving treated of Paftoral and Lyric Poetry, l e c t. 
I proceed next to Didactic Poetry; under 
which is included a numerous Oafs of Writings. 
The ultimate end of all Poetry, indeed of every 
Compoiition, fhould be, to make fome ufeful im- 
preffion on the mind. This ufeful imprefiion is 
moft commonly made in Poetry, by indirect me- 
thods ; as by fable, by narration, by reprefentation 
of characters; but Didactic Poetry openly pro- 
felTes its intention of conveying knowledge and 
inftruction. It differs, therefore, in the form only, 
not in the fcope and fubftance, from a philofophi- 
cal, a moral, or a critical treatife in Profe. At 
the fame time, by means of its form, it has feve- 
ral advantages over Profe Inftruction. By the 
charm of Verification and Numbers, it renders 
inftruction more agreeable; by the defcriptions, 
epifodes, and other embellifhments, which it may 
interweave,, it detains and engages the fancy ; it 



L E C T. 


fixes alfo ufeful circumftances more deeply in the 
memory. Hence, it is a field, wherein a Poet 
may gain great honour, may difplay both much 
genius, and much knowledge and judgment. 

It may be executed in different manners. The 
(Poet may choofe fome inftructive fubject, and he 
may treat it regularly, and in form ; or without 
intending a great or regular work, he may only 
inveigh againft particular vices, or make fome 
moral obfervations on human life and characters, 
as is commonly done in Satires and Epiftles. All 
thefe come under the denomination of Didactic 

The higheit fpecies of it, is a regular treatife 
on fome philofophical, grave, or ufeful fubject, 
Of this nature we have feveral, both antient and 
modern, of great merit and character : fuch as 
Lucretius's fix Books De Rerum Natura, Virgil's 
Georgics, Pope's Effay on Criticifm, Akenfide's 
Pleafures of the Imagination, Armftrong on 
Health, Horace's, Vida's* and Boileau's Art of 

In all fuch works, as inftruction is the prcfcfTed 
object, the fundamental merit confifts in found 
thought, juit principles, clear and apt iiluftracions. 
The Poet mufl inftruct; but he mult ftudy, at the 
fame time, to enliven his inftruetions, by the 



introduction of fuch figures, and fuch circum- L E x £ T * 
fiances, as may amufe the imagination, may con- u 
ceal the drynefs of his fubject, and embelliflj it 
with poetical painting. Virgil, in his Georgics^ 
prefents us here with a perfect model. Fie has the 
art of raifing and beautifying the moft trivial cir- 
cumftances in rural life. When he is going to fay, 
that the labour of the country muft begin in fpring, 
he expreiles himfelf thus : 

Vcre novo, gelidus canis cum montlbus humor 
Liquitur, et Zephyro putris fe gleba refolvit ; 
DeprefTo incipiat jam turn mihi Taurus aratro 
Ingemere, et fulco attritus fplendefcere vomer *. 

Instead of telling his hufbandman in plain 
language, that his crops will fail through bad ma- 
nagement, his language is, 

Heu magnum alterius fruftra fpectabis acervum, 
ConcufTaque famem in fylvis folabere quercu f. 


While yet the Spring is young, while earth unbinds 

Her frozen bofom to the weftern winds ; 

While mountain fnows diflblve againft the Sun, 

And fixeams yet new from precipices run; 

Ev'n in this early dawning of the year, 

Produce the plough and yoke the fturdy fleer, 

And goad hirn till lie groans beneath his toil, 

Till the bright mare is buried in the fuil. Drvdes. 

f On others crops you may with envy look, 
And fhake for food the long abandon'd oak, Dxvdek. 



l e c t. Instead of ordering him to water his grounds, 
v - > -*- _. he preients us with a beautiful landfcape : 

Ecce fupercilio clivofi tramitis undam 

Elicit y ilia cadens, raucum per laevia murmur 

Saxa cint ; fcatebrifque arentia temperat arva *. 

In all Didactic Works, method and order is 
efientially requifite ; not fo ftrict and formal as in a 
profe Treatife ; yet fuch as may exhibit clearly ro 
the Reader a connected train of instruction. Of 
the Didactic Poets, whom I before mentioned, 
Horace, in his Art of Poetry, is the one molt 
cenfured for want of method. Indeed, if Horace 
be deficient in any thing throughout many of his 
"Writings, it is in this, of not being fufficiently 
attentive to juncture and connection of parts. He 
writes always with eafe and gracefulnefs ; but often 
in a manner fomewhat loofe and rambling. There 
is, however, in that work, much good fenfe and 
excellent criticifm ; and, if it be confidered as in- 
tended for the regulation of the Roman Drama, 
which feems to have been the Author's chief pur- 

* Behold when burning funs, or Syrius' beams 

Strike fiercely on the field and with 'ring items, 

Down from the fummit of the neighbouring hills, 

O'er the fmooth fiones he calls the bubbling rills ; 

Soon as he clears whate'er their paflage ftay'd, 

Ar.d marks their future current with his fpade, 

"Hefore him fcattering they prevent his pains, 

And roll with hollow murmurs o'er the plains. 

War. ton. 



pofe, it will be found to be a more complete L E c T - 
and regular Treatife, than under the common 
notion of its being a Syftem of the whole Poetical 


With regard to Epifodes and EmbelliiTiments, 
great liberty is allowed to Writers of Didactic 
Poetry. We foon tire of a continued feries of in- 
ftructions, efpecially in a poetical work, where we 
look for entertainment. The great art of render- 
ing a Didactic Poem interefting, is to relieve and 
amufe the Reader, by connecting fome agreeable 
Epifodes with the principal fubjecl:. Thefe are 
always the parts of the work which are bell known, 
and which contribute mo ft to lupport the reputa- 
tion of the Poet. The principal beauties of Vir- 
gil's Georgics lie in digreiTions of this kind, in 
which the Author has exerted all che force of his 
genius j fuch as the prodigies that attended the 
death of Julius Caefar 3 the Praifes of Italy, the 
Happinefs of a Country Life, the Fable of Arif- 
teus, and the moving Tale of Orpheus and Eury- 
dice. In like manner the favourite paffages in 
Lucretius's work, and which alone could render 
juch a dry and abftracl: fubject tolerable in Poetry-j 
are the digreffions on the Evils of Superftition, the 
Praife of Epicurus and his Philofophy, the De- 
icription of the Plague, and ieverai other inci- 
dental illuftrations, which are remarkably elegant, 
and adorned with a fr.eetnefs and harmony of Ver- 
fification peculiar to that' Poet. There is indeed 
7 nothing 


nothing in Poetry, fo entertaining or defcriptive, 
but what a Didactic Writer of genius may be 
allowed to introduce in fome part of his work; 
provided always, that fuch Epifodes arife naturally 
from the main fubjecl: •, that they be not difpro- 
portioned in length to it j and that the Author 
know how to defcend with propriety to the plain, 
as well as how to rife to the bold and figured 

Much art may be fhewn by a Didactic Poet, in 
connecting his Epifodes happily with his fubjecl:. 
Virgil is alfo diftinguifhed for his addrefs in this 
point. After feeming to have left his hufband- 
inen, he again returns to them very naturally by 
laying hold of fome rural circumftance, to ter- 
minate his digreffion. Thus, having fpoken of 
the battle of Pharfalia, he fubjoins immediately, 
with much art : 

.Scilicet et tempus veniet, cum finibus illis, 
Agricola, incurvo terram molitus aratro, 
Hxefa inveniet fcabra rubigine pila : 
Aut gravibus raftris galeas pulfabit inancs, 
Grandiaque efroflis mirabitur ofla fepulchris *. 

* Then, after length of time, the lab'ring fwains 
Y> >.o turn the turf of thefe unhappy plains, 
Shall rutty arms from the plough'd furrows take, 
And over empty helmets pafs the rake ; 
Amus'd at antique titles on the (tones, 
And mighty relics of gigantic bones. Drvdek. 


D I D A C T I C P O E T R Y. 143 

In Englifh, Dr. Akenfide has attempted the L E c T - 
mod rich and poetical form of Didactic Writing, 
in his Pleafures of the Imagination; and though, 
in the execution of the whole, he is not equal, he 
has, in Several parts, Succeeded happily, and dis- 
played much genius. Dr. Armftrong, in his Art 
of Prefervins; Health, has not aimed at fo high a 
ftrain as the other; but he is more equal, and 
maintains throughout a chafte and correct ele- 

Satires and Epiftles naturally run into a more 
familiar Style, than folemn Philofophical Poetry. 
As the manners and characters, which occur in 
ordinary life, arc their Subject, they require being 
treated with Somewhat of the eafe and freedom 
of conversation ; and hence it is commonly the 
tc mufa pedeuris," which reigns in Such Com- 

Satire, in its firft rtate among the Romans, 
had a form different from what it afterwards 
alTumed. Its origin is obfcure, and has given 
occafion to altercation among Critics. It feems 
to have been at firft a relic of the Antient Comedy, 
written partly in Profe, partly in Verfe, and 
abounding with Scurrility. Ennius and Lucilius 
corrected its groftheSs ; and at laft, Horace brought 
it into that form, which now gives the denomina- 
tion to Satirical Writing. Reformation of man- 
ners, is the end which it profefies to have in vie 



L E C T. 


and in order to this end, it affumes the liberty of 
boldly cenfuring vice, and vicious characters. It 
has been carried on in three different mariners, by 
the three great Antient Satirifts, Horace, Juvenal, 
and Perfius. Horace's Style has not much eleva- 
tion. He entitled his Satires, cc Sermones," and 
feems not to have intended rifing much higher than 
Profe put into numbers. His manner is eafy and 
graceful. They are rather the follies and weak- 
neffes of mankind, than their enormous vices, 
which he chufes for the object of his Satire. He 
reproves with a fmiling afpect ; and while he 
moralizes like a found Ptnlofopher, difcovers, at 
the fame time, the politenefs of a courtier. Ju- 
venal is much more ferious and declamatory. He 
has more ftrength and fire, and more elevation of 
Style, than Horace ; but is greatly inferior to 
him in gracefulnefs and eafe. His Satire is more 
zealous, more fharp and pointed, as being gene- 
rally directed againft more flagitious characters. 
As Scaliger fays of him, <c ardet, inftat jugulat;" 
whereas Horace's character is, <c admiflus circum 
<c prsecordia ludit." Perfius has a greater refem- 
blance of the force and fire of Juvenal, than of 
the politenefs of Horace. He is diftingui fried for 
fentiments of noble and fublime morality. He 
is a nervous and lively Writer •> but withal, often 
harfh and obfcure. 

Poetical Epiftles, when employed on moral 
or critical fubjects, feldom rife into a higher ftrain 



of Poetry than Satires. In the form of an Epiftle, 
indeed, many other fubjects may be handled, and 
either Love Poetry, or Elegiac, may be carried 
on ; as in Ovid's Epiftolas Herodium, and his 
Epiftolas de Ponto. Such works as thefe are de- 
figned to be merely fentimental; and as their merit 
confifts in being proper exprelTions of the paflion 
or fentiment which forms the fubject, they may 
afTume any tone of Poetry that is fuited to it. 
But Didactic Epiftles, of which I now fpeak, 
feldom admit of much elevation. They are com- 
monly intended as obfervations on Authors, or on 
Life and Characters ; in delivering which, the Poet 
does not purpofe to compofe a formal treatife, or 
to confine himfelf ftrictlv to regular method : but 
gives fcope to his genius on fome particular theme 
which, at the time, has prompred him to write. 
In all Didactic Poetry of this kind, it is an im- 
portant rule < f quicquid precipes, efto brevis." 
Much of the grace, both of Satirical and Epifto- 
lary Writing, confifts in a fpirited concifenefs. 
This gives to fuch compofition an edge and a 
livelinefs, which ftrike the fancy and keep atten- 
tion awake. Much of their merit depends alfo 
on juft and happy reprelcntations of characters. 
As they are not fupported by thofe high beauties 
of defcriptive and poetical language which adorn 
other compolitions, we expect, in return, to be 
entertained with lively paintings of men and man- 
ners, which are always pleafing; and in thefe, a 
certain fprightlinefs and turn of wit finds its proper 
vol. in. l place. 


l e c t. place. The higher fpecies of Poetry feldom ad- 
mit it j but here it is feafonable and beautifu]. 

In all thefe refpecls, Mr. Pope's Ethical Epiftles 
deferve to be mentioned with fignal honour, as a 
model, next to perfect, of this kind of Poetry. 
Here, perhaps, the ftrength of his genius appear- 
ed. In the more fublime parts of Poetry, he is 
not fo diftinguifhed. In the enthufiafm, the fire, 
the force and copioufnefs of poetic genius, Dry- 
den, though a much lcfs correct Writer, appears 
to have been fuperior to him. One can fcarce 
think that he was capable of Epic or Tragic Poe- 
try ; but within a certain limited region, he has 
been outdone by no Poet. His tranflation of the 
Iliad will remain a lading monument to his ho- 
nour, as the moft elegant and highly finifhed 
tranflation, that, perhaps, ever was given of any 
poetical work. That he was not incapable of 
tender Poetry, appears from the epifble of Eloifa 
to Abelard, and from the verfes to the memory of 
an unfortunate Lady, which are almoft his only 
fentimental productions ; and which indeed are ex- 
cellent in their kind. But the qualities for which 
he is chiefly diftinguifhed are, judgment and wit, 
with a concife and happy expreftion, and a melo- 
dious verfification. Few Poets ever had more wit, 
and at the fame time more judgment, to direct the 
proper employment of that wit. This renders his 
Rape of the Lock the greateft mafter-piece that 
perhaps was ever compofed, in the gay and 



fprightly Style ; and in his ferious works, fuch as L E f 5 T * 
his Eflay on Man, and his Ethic Epiflles, his wit 
jtiit difcovers itfelf as much, as to give a proper 
feafoning to grave reflections. His imitations of 
Horace are fo peculiarly happy, that one is at a 
lofs, whether mod to admire the original, or the 
copy; and they are among the few imitations ex- 
tant, that have all the grace and eafe of an original. 
His paintings of characters are natural and lively 
in a high degree; and never was any Writer fo . 
happy in that concife fpirited Style, which gives 
animation to Satires and Epiflles. We are never 
{o fenfible of the good effects of rhyme in Englifh 
verfe, as in reading thefe parts of his works. 
We fee it adding to the Style, an elevation which 
otherwife it could not have pofTefied ; while at the 
fame time he manages it fo artfully, that it never 
appears in the leaft to encumber him; but, on the 
contrary, ferves to increafe the livelinefs of his 
manner. He tells us himfelf, that he could 
exprefs moral obfervations more Concifely, and 
therefore more forcibly, in rhyme, than he couid 
do in profe. 

Among Moral and Didactic Poets, Dr. Young 
is of too great eminence, to be pafTed over with- 
out notice. In all his works, the marks of ftrong 
genius appear. His Univerfal Paffion, pofTeiTes 
the full merit of that . animated concifenefs of 
Style, and lively defcription of characters, which 
I mentioned as particularly requinte in Satirical 

l 2 and 


and Didactic Compofitions. Though his wit may 
often be thought too fparkling, and his Sentences 
too pointed, yet the vivacity of his fancy is fo 
great, as to entertain every Reader. In his Night 
Thoughts, there is much energy of expreffion j in 
the three firfc, there are feverai pathetic paiTages ; 
and fcattered through them all, happy images and 
allufions, as well as pious reflections, occur. But 
the fentiments are frequently over-ftrained, and 
turgid ; and the Style is too harlh and obfcure to 
be pleafing. Among French Authors, Boileau 
has undoubtedly much merit in Didactic Poetry. 
Their later Critics are unwilling to allow him any 
great (hare of original genius, or poetic fire*. 
But his Art of Poetry, his Satires and Epiftles, 
mud ever be efteemed eminent, not only for folid 
and judicious thought, but for correct and elegant 
poetical expreffion, and fortunate imitation of the 

From Didactic, I proceed next to treat of. 
Defcriptive Poetry, where the higheft exertions of 
genius may be difplayed. By Defcriptive Poetry, 
I do not mean any one particular fpecies or form 
of Compofition. There are few Compofitions of 
any length, that can be called purely defcriptive, 
or wherein the Poet propofes to himfelf no other 
object, but merely to defcribe, without employ- 
ing narration, action, or moral fentiment, as the 

• Vid. Politique Frantpife de Marmontel. 



ground-work of his Piece. Defcription is gene- l e c t. 
rally introduced as an embelliihment, rather than 
made the fubject of a regular work. But though 
it feldom form a feparate fpecies of writing, yet 
into every fpecies of Poetical Compofition, Paf- 
toral, Lyric, Didactic, Epic, and Dramatic, it 
both enters, and poflciTes in each of them a very 
confiderable place ; fo that in treating of Poetry, 
it demands no fmall attention. 

Description is the great teft of a Poet's ima- 
gination; and always diftinguifhes an original from 
a fecond-rate Genius. To a Writer of the infe- 
rior clafs, Nature, when at any time he attempts to 
defcribe it, appears exhaufted by thofe who have 
gone before him in the fame track. He fees 
nothing new, or peculiar, in the object which he 
would paint; his conceptions of it are loofe and 
vague; and his exprehrons, of courfe, feeble and 
general. He gives us words rather than ideas; 
we meet with the language indeed of poetical de- 
scription, but we apprehend the object defcribed 
very indiftinctly. Whereas, a true Poet makes 
us imagine that we fee it before our eyes •, he 
catches the diftinguifhing features; he gives it the 
colours of life and reality ; he places it in fuch a 
light, that a Painter could copy after him. This 
happy talent is chiefly owing to a ftrong imagina- 
tion, which firfl: receives a lively imprefiion of the 
object; and then, by employing a proper felection 
of circumftances in defcribing it, tranfmits that 
l 3 impreffion 

1 5 o 


I- e c t. jmprefiion in its full force to the imagination cf 



In this felection of circumftances, lies the great 
art of Piclurefque Defcription. In the firft place, 
they ought not to be vulgar, and common ones, 
fuch as are apt to pafs by without remark ; but, 
as much as poffible, new and original, which may 
catch the fancy, and draw attention. In the next 
place, they ought to be fuch as particularize the 
object dcfcribed, and mark it ftrongly. No de- 
fcription, that reds in generals, can be good. 
For we can conceive nothing clearly in the ab- 
ftract ; all diftin<5t ideas are formed upon parti- 
culars. In the third place, all the circumftances 
employed ought to be uniform, and of a-piece ; 
that is, when defcribing a great object, every cir- 
cumftance brought into view fhould tend to ag- 
grandize ■, or, when defcribing a gay and pleafant 
one, mould tend to beautify, that by this means, 
the impreffion may reft upon the imagination, 
complete and entire ; and laftly, the circumftances 
in defcription fhould be exprefled with concifenefs, 
and with fimplicity; for when either too much ex- 
aggerated, or too long dwelt upon and extended, 
they never fail to enfeeble the impreffion that is 
deiigned to be made. Brevity, almoft always, 
contributes to vivacity. Thefe general rules will 
be beft underftood by illuftrations founded on par- 
pcular inilances. 



Of all profeffed Defcriptive Compofitions, the 
largeft and fulleft that I am acquainted with, in 
any language, is Mr. Thomfon's Seafons ; a 
work which pofTefTes very uncommon merit. The 
Style, in the midft of much fplendor and Strength, 
is fometimes harfh, and may be cenfured as defi- 
cient in eafe and diftinctnefs. But notwithstand- 
ing this defect, Thomfon is a ftrong and a beau- 
tiful Defcriber; for he had a feeling heart, and a 
warm imagination. He had ftudied, and copied 
Nature with care. Enamoured of her beauties, 
he not only defcribed them properly, but felt their 
impreffion with ftrong fenfibility. The impreffion 
which he felt, he tranfmits. to his Readers; and 
no perfon of tafte can perufe any one of his Sea- 
fons, without having the ideas and feelings which 
belong to that Seafon, recalled, and rendered pre- 
fent to his mind. Several infbnces of molt beau- 
tiful defcription might be given f r om him ; fuch 
as, the fhower in Spring., the morning in Summer, 
and the man perifhing in fnow in Winter. But, 
at prefent, I mail produce a palTage of another 
kind, to fhew the power of a fingle well-chofen 
circumftance, to heighten a defcription. In his 
Summer, relating the effects of heat in the torrid 
zone, he is led to take notice of the peftilence 
that deftroyed the Englifh fleet, at Carthagena, 
under Admiral Vernon ; when he has the follow- 
ing lines : 

you, gallant Vernon, faw 

The miferable fcene ; you pitying faw 

L4 To 


To infant weaknefs funk the warrior's arms ; 
Saw the deep racking pang j the ghaftly form ; 
The lip pale quiv'ring.; and the beamlefs eye 
No more with ardour bright ; you heard the groans 
Of agonizing fhips from fhore to fhore ; 
Heard nightly plunged, amid the fullen waves, 
The frequent corfe. . L. 1050. 

All the circumftances here are properly chofen, 
for fetting this difmal fcene in a ftrong light before 
our eyes. But. what is mod finking in the pic- 
ture, is the laft image. We are conduced through 
all the fcenes of diftrefs, till we come to the mor- 
tality prevailing in the fleet, which a vulgar Poet 
would have defcribed by exaggerated expreffions, 
concerning the multiplied trophies and victories of 
death. But, how much more is the imagination 
imprefTed by this fingle circumstance, of dead bo- 
dies, thrown overboard every night ; of the con- 
flant found of their falling into the waters; and of 
the Admiral liftening to this melancholy found, fo 
often ftriking his ear ? 

Heard nightly plunged, amid the fullen waves, 
The frequent corfe *. 


* The eulogium which Dr. Johnfon, in his Lives of the 
Poets, gives of Thomfon, is high, and, in my opinion, very 
juih " As a Writer, he is entitled to one praiie of the higheit 
" kind ; his mode of thinking, and of exprefling his thoughts., 
" is original. His Blank Verfe is no more the Blank Verfe of 
Cf Milton, or of any other Poet, than the Rhymes of Prior are 

" the 


Mr. Parnell's Tale of the Hermit, is con- L E x £ T * 
fpicuous, throughout the whole of it, for beautiful 
Defcriptive Narration. The manner of the Her- 
mit's fetting forth to vifit the world ; his meeting 
with a companion, and the houfes in which they 
are fuccelTively entertained, of the vain man, the 
covetous man and the good man, are pieces of 
very fine painting, touched with a light and deli- 
cate pencil, over-charged with no fuperfiuous co- 
louring:, and conveying to us a lively idea of the 

" the Rhymes of Cowley. His numbers, his paufes, his die- 
*', tion, are of his own growth, without tranfeription, without 
" imitation. He thinks in a peculiar train, and he thinks 
*' always as a man of genius. He Looks roundon nature and 
ft life, with the eye which nature be (lows only on a Poet; the 
" eye that diflinguifhes in every thing prefented to its view, 
" vvhatever there is on which imagination can delight to be 
f* detained ; and with a mind, that at once comprehends the 
" vail, and attends to the minute. The Reader of the Sea- 
" fons wonders that he never faw before what Thomfon fnews 
" him, and that he never yet has felt what Thomfon imprefles. 
" His defcriptions of extended fcenes, and general effects, 
" bring before us the whole magnificence of nature, whether 
" pleafing or dreadful. The gaiety of Spring, the fplendour 
" of Summer, the tranquillity of Autumn, and the horror of 
" Winter, take, in their turn, pofleffion of the mind. The. 
" Poet leads us through the appearances of things, as they are 
" fucceffively varied by the viciffitudes of the year, and imparts 
*' to us fo much of his own enthufiafm, that our thoughts ex- 
" pand with his imagery, and kindle with his fentiments." 
The cenfure which the fame eminent Critic pafTes upon Thorn - 
fon's diclion, is no lefs juft and well-founded, that ** it is too 
" exuberant, and may fometimes be charged with filling the 
*f ear more than the mind." 



objects But, of all the Englifh Poems in the 
Defcriptive Style, the richeft and mod remarkable 
are, Milton's Allegro and Penferofo. The col- 
lection of gay images on the one hand, and of 
melancholy ones on the other, exhibited in thefe 
two fmall, but inimitably fine Poems, are as ex- 
quifite as can be conceived. They are, indeed, 
the ftorehoufe whence many fucceeding Poets have 
enriched their defcriptions of fimilar fubjectsj and 
they alone are fufficient for illuftrating the obfer- 
vations which I made concerning the proper fe- 
le&ion of circumftances in Defcriptive Writing. 
Take, for inftance, the following paffage from 
the Penferofo : 

1 walk unfeen 

On the dry, fmocth-fhaven green, 
To behold the wandering moon, 
Riding near her highefl noon, 
Like one that had been led aftray 
Through the heaven's wide pathlefs way, 
And oft, as if her head fhe bow'd, 
Stooping thi'ough a fleecy cloud. 
Oft, on a plat of rifing ground, 
I hear the far-off curfew found, 
Over fome wide watered fhore, 
Swinging flow with folemn roar : 
Or, if the air will not permit, 
Some ftill removed place will fit, 
Where glowing embers through the room 
Teach light to counterfeit a gloom ; 
Far from all refort of mirth, 
Save the cricket on the hearth. 



Or the bellman's drowfy charm, 
To blefs the doors from nightly harm; 
Or let my lamp, at midnight hour, 
Be feen in Come high lonely tower, 
Where I may outwatch the Bear 
With thrice great Hermes, or unfphere 
The fpirit of Plato to unfold 
What worlds, or what vaft regions hold 
Th' immortal mind, that hath forfook 
Her manfion in this flefhly nook 5 
And of thofe Daemons that are found 
In fire, air, flood, or under-ground. 

Here, there are no unmeaning general expref- 
fionsj all is particular: all is picturefque; nothing 
forced or exaggerated j but a fimple Style, and a 
collection of firong expreffive images, which are 
all of one clafs, and recal a number of fimilar 
ideas of the melancholy kind : particularly, the 
walk by moon-light ; the found of the curfew bell 
heard diftanc ; the dying embers in the chamber; 
the bellman's call 5 and the lamp feen at midnight, 
in the high lonely tower. We may obferve, too, 
the concifenefs of the Poet's manner. He does 
not reft long on one circumftance, or employ a 
great many words to delcribe it; which always 
makes the imprefiion faint and languid ; but plac- 
ing it in one ftrong point of view, full and clear 
before the Reader, he there leaves it. 


From his fhield and his helmet," fays 
Jrlomer, defcribing one of his heroes in battle, 

" From 


" From his fhield and his helmet, there fpark- 
fC led an inceiTant blaze -, like the autumnal ftar, 
" when it appears in its brightnefs from the waters 
" of the ocean." This is fhort and lively; but 
when it comes into Mr. Pope's hand, it evapo- 
rates in three pompous lines, each of which re- 
peats the fame image in different words : 

High on his helm celeflial lightnings play, 
His beamy fhield emits a living ray ; 
Th* unwearied blaze inceflant ftreams fupplles, 
Like the red ftar that fires th' autumnal fkies. 

It is to be obferved, in general, that, in de- 
fcribing folemn or great objects' the concife man- 
ner is, alrnoft always, proper. Defcriptions of 
gay and fmiling fcenes can bear to be more ampli- 
fied and prolonged ; as ftrength is not the predo- 
minant quality expected in thefe. But where a 
fublime, or a pathetic impreffion is intended to be 
made, energy is above all things required. The 
imagination ought then to be feized at once ; and 
it is far more deeply imprefTed by one ftrong and 
ardent image, than by the anxious minutenefs of 
laboured illustration. — " His face was without 
" form, and dark," fays Qffian, defcribing a 
gholi; " the flars dim twinkled through his 
« c form j thrice he fighed over the hero •, and 
(t thrice the winds of the night roared around." 

It deferves attention too, that in defcribing in- 
animate natural objects, the Poet, in order to en- 



liven his defcription, ought always to mix living L ^ c 
beings with them. The fcenes of dead and flili 
life are apt to pall upon us, if the Poet do not 
fuggeft fentiments, and introduce life and action 
into his defcription. This is well known to every 
Painter who is a matter in his art. Seldom has 
any beautiful landfcape been drawn, without fome 
human being reprefented on the canvas, as behold- 
ing it, or on fome account concerned in it : 

Hie gelidi fontes, hie mollia prata, Lycori, 
Hie nemus ; hie ipfo tecum confumerer sevo *. 

The touching part of thefe fine lines of Vir- 
gil's is the laft, which fets before us the intereft of 
two lovers in this rural fcene. A long defcription 
of the "fontes," the IC nemus" and the "prata," 
in the moil poetical modern manner, would have 
been infipid without this ftroke, which, in a few 
words, brings home to the heart all the beauties of 
the place; " hie ipfo tecum confumerer asvo." 
It is a great beauty in Milton's Allegro, that it is 
all alive, and full of perfons. 

Every thing, as I before faid, in defcription, 
fhould be as marked and particular as poffible, in 


Here cooling fountains roll thro' flow'ry meads, 
Here woods, Lycoris, lift their verdant heads, 
Here could I wear my carelefs life away, 
And in thy arms infenfibly decay. 

Virg.EcI. X. W.UTON 



L E C T. 


order to imprint on the mind a diftinct and com- 
~> plete image. A hill, a river, or a lake, rifes up 
more confpicuous to the fancy, when fome parti- 
cular lake, or river, or hill, is fpecified, than when 
the terms are left general. Mod of the Antienc 
Writers have been fenfible of the advantage which 
this gives to defcription. Thus, in that beautiful 
Paftoral Compofition, the Song of Solomon, the 
images are commonly particularized by the obje&s 
to which they allude. " It is the role of Sharon j 
{C the lily of the vallies ; the flock which feeds on 
" Mount Gilead j the ftream which comes from 
ft Mount Lebanon. Come with me, from Le- 
" banon, my Spoufe j look from the top of 
c< Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, 
" from the mountains of the Leopards." Ch. iv. 8. 
So Horace : 

Quid dedicatum pofcit Apollinem 
Vates ? quid orat de patera novum 
Fundens liquovem ? non opimas 
Sardine fegetes feracis ; 
Non seftuofre grata Calabrice 
Armenta; non aurum aut ebur Indicum, 
Non rura, qure Liris quieta 
Mordet aqua, taciturnus amnis *. 

Lib. i. Ode 31. 


* When at Apollo's hallowed fhrine 
The poet hails the power divine, 
And here his firfl libation pours, 
What is the bleihng he implores ? 



Both Homer and Virgil are remarkable for the l e c t. 
talent of Poetical Defcription. In Virgil's Second ,_ t „j 
i^neid, where he defcribes the burning and facking 
of Troy, the particulars are fo well {"elected and 
reprefented, that the Reader finds himfelf in 
the midft of that fcene of horror. The death of 
Priam, efpecially, may be tingled out as a mafter- 
piece of defcription. All the circumftances of the 
aged monarch arraying himfelf in armour, when 
he finds the enemy making themfelves matters of 
the city ; his meeting with his family, who are 
taking fhelter at an altar in the court of the palace, 
and their placing him in the midft of them ; his 
indignation when he beholds Pyrrhus flaughterino; 
one of his fons ; the feeble dart which he throws ; 
with Pyrrhus's brutal behaviour, and his manner 
of putting the old man to death, are painted in the 
mod affecting manner, and with a mafterly hand. 
All Homer's battles, and Milton's account, both, 
of Paradife and of the Infernal Regions, furnifh 
many beautiful inftances of Poetical Defcription. 
OfTian, too, paints in ftrorig and lively colours, 
though he employs few circumftances $ and his chief 

He nor defires the fweiling grain, 

That yellows o'er Sardinia's plain, 

Nor the fair herds that lowing feed 

On warm Calabria's flowery mead ; 

Nor ivory of fpotlefs thine; 

Nor gold forth flaming from the mine ; 

Nor the rich fields that Liris ! | 

And eats away with filent waves. Fr a kcis. 

i excellency 


excellency lies in painting to the heart. One of 
his fulled Defcriptions is, the following of the 
ruins of Balclutha : <f I have feen the walls of 
" Balclutha, but they were defolate. The fire had 
tc refounded within the halls; and the voice of the 
tf people is now heard no more. The ftream of 
" Clutha was removed from its place, by the fall 
<c of the walls ; the thiftle fhook there its lonely 
<c head ; the mofs whittled to the wind. The fox 
" looked out at the window ; the rank grafs waved 
cc round his head. Defolate is the dwelling of 
<c Moina. Silence is in the houfe of her fathers." 
Shakefpeare cannot be omitted on this occafion, 
as fingularly eminent for painting with the pencil 
of nature. Though it be in manners and charac- 
ters, that his chief excellency lies, yet his fcenery 
alio is often exquifite, and happily defcribed by a 
fingle ftroke; as in that fine line of the <c Mer- 
" chant of Venice," which conveys to the fancy 
as natural and beautiful an image, as can poffibly 
be exhibited in fo few words : 

How fweet the moon-light fleeps upon this bank ! 
Here will we fit, &c. 

Much of the beauty of Defcriptive Poetry 
depends upon a right choice of Epithets. Many 
Poets, it mud be confefTed, are too carelefs in this 
particular. Epithets are frequently brought in, 
merely to complete the verfe, or make the rhyme 
anfwerj and hence they are fo unmeaning and 
redundant 3 expletive words only, which, in place 
9 of 


of adding any thing to the defcription, clog and 
enervate it. Virgil's Cf Liquidi fontes," and Ho- 
race's " Prata canis albicant pruinis," mud, I am 
afraid, be affigned to this clafs : for, to denote by 
an epithet that water is liquid, or that fnow is white, 
is no better than mere tautology. Every epithet 
fhould either add a new idea to the word which it 
qualifies, or at lead ferve to raife and heighten its 
known fignification. So in Milton, 

Who fhall tempt with wand'ring feet 

The dark, uiibottom'd, infinite abyfs, 

And through the palpable obfcure, find out 

His uncouth way ? or fpread his airy flight:, 

Upborn with indefatigable wings, 

Over the vaft abrupt ? B. II. 

The epithets employed here plainly add ftrength to 
the defcription, and affift the fancy in conceiving 
it j — the wandering feet — the unbottomed abyfs — 
the palpable obfcure — the uncouth way — the inde- 
fatigable wing — ferve to render the images more 
complete and diftinct. But there are many general 
epithets, which, though they appear to raife the 
fignification of the word to which they are joined, 
yet leave it fo undetermined, and are now become 
fo trite and beaten in poetical language, as to be 
perfectly infipid. Of this kind are <c barbarous 
<c difcord — hateful envy — mighty chiefs — bloody 
<f war — gloomy fhades — direful fcenes," and a 
thoufand more of the fame kind which we meet 
vol. in. m with 


with occafionally in good Poets ; but with which, 
Poets of inferior genius abound every where, as 
the great props of their affected fublimity. They 
give a fort of fwell to the language, and raife it 
above the tone of Profe; but, they ferve not in 
the leaft to iliuftrate the object defcribed j on the 
contrary, they load the Style with a languid ver- 

Sometimes it is in the power of a Poet of ge- 
nius, by one weil-chofen epithet, to accomplifh a 
description, and by means of a fingle word, to paint 
a whole fcene to the fancy. We may remark this 
effect of an epithet in the following fine lines of 
Milton's Lycidas : 

Where were ye. nymphs, when the remorfelefs deep 

Clos'd o'er the head of your lov'd Lycidas ? 

For neither were ye playing on the fteep, 

"Where your old bards, the famous Druids, lie, 

Nor oh the fhaggy top of Mona high, 

Nor yet where Deva fpread* her wizard ftream. 

Among thefe wild fcnes, " Deva's wizard 
€{ ftream" is admirably imageJ $ by this one word, 
prefenting to the farcy all the romantic ideas, of a 
river flowing through a defolate country, with 
banks haunted by wiz ids and enchanters. Akin 
to this is an epithet which Horace gives to the 
river Hydafpes. A good man, fays he, itands in 
need of no arms, 



Sive per Syrtes iter seftuofas, L E x £ T * 

Sive facturus per inhofpitalem % — t -, *j 

Caucafum •, vel quae loca fabulofus 
Lambit Hydafpes *. 

This epithet <c fabulofus" one of the commentators 
on Horace has changed into cc fabulofus" or fandy; 
fubftituting, by a ftrange want of tafte, the com- 
mon and trivial epithet of the fandy river, in place 
of that beautiful picture which the Poet gives us, 
by calling Hydafpes the Romantic River, or the 
fcene of Adventures and Poetic Tales. 

Virgil has employed an epithet with great beauty 
and propriety, when accounting for Daedalus not 
having engraved the fortune of his fon Icarus : 

Bis conatus erat cafus effingere in auro, 

Bis patriae cecidere manus f . iEN. VI. 

* Whether through Lybia's burning fands 
Our journey leads, or Scythia's lands, 
Amidft th' unhofpitable wafte of fnows, 
Or where the fabulous Hydafpes flows. Francis. 

-f- Here haplefs Icarus had found his part, 
Had not the father's grief reftrain'd his art ; 
He twice eflayed to cart his fon in gold, 
Twice from his hand he drop'd the forming mould. 


In this tranflation the thought is juftly given ; but the beauty 
of the expreffion, " patriae manus," which in the original con= 
veys the thought with fo much tendernefs, is loft, 

m 2 These 


l e^c t. These inftances, and obfervations, may give 
fome juft idea of true poetical defcription. We 
have reafon always to diftruft an Author's defcrip- 
tive talents, when we find him laborious and turgid, 
amafiing common-place epithets and general ex- 
prefiions, to work up a high conception of fome 
object, of which, after all, we can form but an 
indiftinct idea. The beft defcribers are fimple and 
concife. They fet before us fuch features of an 
object, as, on the fir ft view, ftrike and warm the 
fancy : they give us ideas which a Statuary or a 
Painter could lay hold of, and work after them ; 
which is one of the ftrongeft and mod decifive trials 
of the real merit of Defcription. 



Among the various kinds of Poetry, which we 
are, at prefent, employed in examining, the 
Antient Hebrew Poetry, or that of the Scriptures, 
juftly deferves a place. Viewing thefe facred books 
in no higher light, than as they prefent to us the 
mod antient monumenjs of Poetry extant, at this 
day, in the world, they afford a curious object cf 
Criticifm. They difplay the tafte of a remote age 
and country. They exhibit a fpecies of Compo- 
fition, very different from any other with which we 
are acquainted, and, at the fame time, beautiful. 
Confidered as Infpired Writings, they give rife to 
difcuffions of another kind. But it is our bufinefs, 
at prefent, to confider them not in a theological, 
but in a critical view : and it mud needs give plea- 
fure, if we (hall find the beauty and dignity of the 
Compofition', adequate to the weight and import- 
ance of the matter. Dr. Lowth's learned Treatife, 
" De Sacra Poefi Hebrasorum," ought to be 
perufed by all who defire to become thoroughly 
m j acquainted 


L xu T " acc l ua i nte ^ w ^h this fubje6t. It is a work exceed- 
ingly valuable, both for the elegance of its Com- 
pofition, and for the juftnefs of the criticifm which 
it contains. In this Lecture, as I cannot illuftrate 
the fubjecl with more benefit to the Reader, than 
by following the track of that ingenious Author, I 
fhall make much ufeof his observations. 

I need not fpend many words in fhowing, that 
among the books of the Old Teftament there is 
fuch an apparent diverfity in Style, as fufficiently 
difcovers, which of them are to be confidered as 
Poetical, and which, as Profe Compofitions. 
While the hiftorical books, and legislative writings 
of Mofes, are evidently profaic in the compofition, 
the book of Job, the Pfalms of David, the Song 
of Solomon, the Lamentations of Jeremiah, a 
great part of the Prophetical Writings, and feveral 
paiTages fcattered occafionally through the hiftori- 
cal books, carry the molt plain and diftinguifliing 
marks of Poetical Writing. 

There is not the lead reafon for doubting, that 
orisrinallv thefe were written in verfe, or fome kind 
of meafured numbers ; though as the antient pro- 
nunciation of the Hebrew Language is now loft-, 
we are not able to afcertain the nature of the He- 
brew verfe, or at mod can afcertain it but imper- 
fectly. Concerning this point there have been great 
controverfies among learned men, which it is un- 


necefiary to our prefent purpofe to difcufs. Taking L | c t. 
the Old Teftament in our own Tranflation, which 
is extremely literal, we find plain marks of many 
parts of the original being written in a me;i fared 
Style s and the " disjefli membra poetse" often 
Jhow themfelves. Let any perfon read the Hifto- 
rical Introduction to the book of Job, contained 
in the fir ft and fccond chapters, and then go on to 
Job's fpeech in the beginning of the third chap- 
ter, and he cannot avoid being fenfible, that he 
paffes all at once from the region of Profe, to that 
of Poetry. Not only the poetical fentiments, and 
the figured Style, warn him of the change ; but 
the cadence of the fentence, and the arrangement 
of the words, are fenfibly altered ; the change is 
as great as when he panes from reading Cseiar's 
Commentaries, to read Virgil's iEneid. This is 
fufficient to (how that the facred Scriptures contain, 
what muft be called Poetry in the drifted fenfe of 
that word ; and I fhall afterwards (how, that they 
contain inftances of moll of the different forms 
of Poetical Writing. It may be proper to remark, 
in palling, that hence arifes a mod invincible 
argument in honour of Poetry. No perfon can 
imagine that to be a frivolous and contemptible 
art, which has been employed by Writers under 
divine infpiration, and has been chofen as a proper 
channel for conveying to the world the knov/ledge 
of divine truth. 

From the earlied times, Mufic and Poetry were 
cultivated among the Hebrews. In the days of 

M 4 the 


L xli T ' t ^ e J uc ^§ es > menr i° n is made of the Schools or 
Colleges of the Prophets j where one part of the 
employment of the perfons trained in fuch fchools 
was, to fing the praifes of God, accompanied with 
various inftruments. In the firft book of Samuel 
(chap. x. 7.), we find, on a public occafion, a 
company of thefe Prophets coming down from the 
hill where their fchool was, " prophefying," it is 
faid, " with the pfakery, tabret, and harp before 
" them." But in the days of King David, Mufic 
and Poetry were carried to their greateft height. 
For the fervice of the Tabernacle, he appointed 
four thoufand Levites, divided into twenty-four 
courfes, and marfhalled under feveral leaders, whole 
ible bufinefs it was to fing Hymns, and to perform 
the inftrumental Mufic in the public worfhip. 
Aftph, Heman, and Jeduthun, were the chief 
directors of the mufic j and, from the titles of 
fome Pfalms, it would appear that they were alfo 
eminent compofers of Hymns or Sacred Poems. 
In chapter xxv. of the firft book of Chronicles, 
an account is given of David's inftitutions, relating 
to the Sacred Mufic and Poetry ; which were cer- 
tainly more coftly, more fplendid and magnificent, 
than ever obtained in the public fervice of any other 

The general construction of the Hebrew Poetry 
is of a fingular nature, and peculiar to itfelf. It 
confifts in dividing every period into correfpondent, 
for the mod part into equal members, which an- 
swer to one another, both in fenfe and found. In 



the firft member of the period a fentiment is 
expreffed ; and in the fecond member, the fame 
fenrimcnt is amplified, or is repeated in different 
termb, or fometimes contrafted with its oppofite ; 
but in fuch a manner that the fame ftruclure, and 
nearly the fame number of words is preferved. 
This is the general drain of all the Hebrew Poetry. 
Inftances of it occur every where on opening the 
Old Teftament. Thus, in Pfalm xcvi. " Sing 
<{ unto the Lord a new fong — Sing unto the Lord, 
" all the earth. Sing unto the Lord, and blefs 
<f his name — fhew forch his falvation from day to 
" day. Declare his glory among the heathen—- 
" his wonders among all the people. For the 
<c Lord is great, and greatly to be praifed — He is 
** to be feared above all the Gods. Honour and 
tc majefty are before him — Strength and beauty 
tc are in his fancluary." It is owing, in a great 
meafure, to this form of Compofition, that our 
verfion, though in Profe, retains fo much of a 
poetical cafb. For the verfion being ft'riilly word 
for word after the original, the form and order of 
the original fentence are preferved ; which by this 
artificial ftruclure, this regular alternation and cor- 
refpondence of parts, makes the ear fenfible of 
a departure from thexommon Style and Tone of 

The origin of this form of Poetical Compo- 
fition among the Hebrews, is clearly to be deduced 
from the manner in which their Sacred Hymns 



' xlj T ' were wont t0 ^ e ^ un G* They were accompanied 
b — v— ~> with mufic, and they were performed by choirs 
or bands of fingers and muficians, who anfwered 
alternately to each other. When, for inftance, one 
band began the Hymn thus : " The Lord reign- 
" eth, let the earth rejoice " the chorus, or femi- 
chorus, took up the correfponding verficle : " Lee 

c< the mukicude of the ifles be glad thereof." 

" Clouds and darknefs are round about him," 
fung the one ; the other replied, ft Judgment and 
" righteoufnefs are the habitation of his throne." 
And in this manner their Poetry, when fet to 
mufic, naturally divided itfelf into, a fucceiTion 
of ftrophes and antiftrophes correfpondent to 
each other j whence, it is probable, the Anti- 
phon, or Refponfory, in the public religious 
fervice of fo many Chriitian churches, derived its 

We are exprefsly told, in the book of Ezra, 
that the Levites fung in this manner; " Alter- 
<c natim," or by courfe (Ezra, iii. ii.)j and 
fome of David's Pfalms bear plain marks of their 
being compofed in order to be thus performed. 
The 24th Pfum, in particular, which is thought 
to have been compofed on the great and folemn 
occafion of the Ark of the Covenant being brought 
back to Mount Zion, mud have had a noble effect, 
when performed after this manner, as Dr. Lowth 
has illustrated it. The whole people are iuppofed 
to be attending the proceffion. The Levites and 
8 Singers, 


Singers, divided into their feveral courfes, and 
accompanied with all their mufical inftruments, 
led the way. After the Introduction to the Pfalm, 
in the two firft verfes, when the procefiion begins 
to afcend the facred Mount, the queftion is put, 
as by a femi- chorus, <c Who fhall afcend unto the 
tc hill of the Lord, and who fhall ftand in his holy 
<c place ?" The refponfe is made by the full chorus 
with the greateft dignity : cc He that hath clean 
" hands and a pure heart ; who hath not lifted up 
" his foul to vanity, nor fworn deceitfully." As 
the procefiion approaches to the doors of the 
Tabernacle, the chorus, with d\ their inftruments, 
join in this exclamation : " Lift up your heads, 
" ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlafling 
<c doors, and the King of Glory fhall come in." 
Here the femi-chorus plainly break in, as with a 
lower voice, " Who is this King of Glory ?" and 
at the moment when the Ark is introduced into 
the Tabernacle, the refponfe is made by the burft 
of the whole chorus : c< The Lord, ftrong and 
<( mighty ; the Lord, mighty in battle." 1 take 
notice of this inftance the rather, as it ferves to 
(how how much of the grace and magnificence of 
the Sacred Poems, as indeed of all Poems, de- 
pends upon our knowing the particular occafions 
for which they were compofed, and the particular 
circumftances to which they were adapted ; and 
how much of this beauty rnufi now be loft to us, 
through our imperfect acquaintance with many 
particulars of the Hebrew hiftory, and Hebrew 




The method of Composition which has been 
explained, by correfpondent verficles being uni- 
verfally introduced into the Hymns or mufical 
Poetry of the Jews, eafily fpread itfelf through 
their other Poetical Writings, which were not de- 
signed to be fung in alternate portions, and which 
therefore did not fo much require this mode of 
Compofition. But the mode became familiar to 
their ears, and carried with it a certain folemn 
majefty of Style, particularly fuited to facred fub- 
jects. Hence, throughout the Prophetical Writ- 
ings, we find it prevailing as much as in the; 
Pfalms of David; as, for inftance, in the Prophet 
Ifaiah (chap. lx. i.), ff Aiife, fhine, for thy light 
" is come, and the glory of the Lord is rifen upon 
11 thee: For, lo ! darknefs fhall cover the earth, 
Cf and grofs darknefs the people. But the Lord 
iC Pnall rife upon thee, and his glory (hall be feen 
" upon thee, and the Gentiles fhall come to thy 
<c light, and kings to the brightnefs of thy riling." 
This form of writing is one of the great cha- 
racteriftics of the antient Hebrew Poetry -, very 
different from, and even oppofite to, the Style of 
the Greek and Roman Poets. 

Independently of this peculiar mode of con- 
ftruction, the facred Poetry is diftinguifhed by the 
higheft beauties of ftrong, concife, bold, and figu- 
rative expreffion. 

Conciseness and ftrength., are two of its mod; 
remarkable characters. One might indeed at firft 



imagine, that the practice of the Hebrew Poets, l e c t. 

• r XLI 

of always amplifying the lame thought, by repe- 
tition or contrail, might tend to enfeeble their 
Style. But they conduct themfelves fo as not to 
produce this effect. Their fentences are always 
fhort. Few fuperfluous words are ufed. The fame 
thought is never dwelt upon long. To their con- 
cifenefs and fobriety of exprefiion, their Poetry h 
indebted for much of its fublimity; and all 
Writers who attempt the fublime, might profit 
much, by imitating, in this refpect, the Style of 
the Old Teftament. For, as I have formerly had 
occaiion to mow, nothing is fo great an enemy to 
the Sublime, as prolixity or diffufenefs. The 
mind is never fo much affected by any great idea 
that is prefented to it, as when it is ftruck all at 
once; by attempting to prolong the impreflion, 
we at the fame time weaken it. Mod of the an- 
tient original Poets of all nations, are fimple and 
concife. The fuperfluities and excrefcences of 
Style, were the refult of imitation in after-times; 
when Compofition patted into inferior hands, and 
flowed from art and fludy, more than from native 

No Writings whatever abound fo much with 
the mod bold and animated figures, as the Sacred 
Books. It is proper to dwell a little upon this 
article ; as, through our early familiarity with 
thefe books, a familiarity too often with the found 
of the words, rather than with their fenfe and 



meaning, beauties of Style efcape us in the Scrip- 
ture, which, in any other book, would draw par- 
ticular attention. Metaphors, Comparifons, Alle- 
gories, aud Perfonifkations, are there particularly- 
frequent. In order to do juftice to thefe, it is ne- 
ceffary that we tranfport ourfelves as much as we 
can into the land of Judaea; and place before our 
eyes that fcenery, and thofe objects with which the 
Hebrew Writers were converfant. Some attention 
of this kind is requifite, in order to relifh the wri- 
tings of any Poet of a foreign country, and a dif- 
ferent age. For the imagery of every good Poet 
is copied from nature, and real life -, if it were not 
fo, it could not be lively ; and therefore, in order 
to enter into the propriety of his images, we muft 
endeavour to place ourfelves in his fituation. Now 
we (hall find, that the Metaphors and Compa- 
rifons of the Hebrew Poets, prefent to us a very 
beautiful view of the natural objects of their own 
country, and of the arts and employments of 
their common life. 

Natural objects are in lbme meafure common 
to them with Poets of all ages and countries. 
Light and darknefs, trees and flowers, the foreft 
and the cultivated field, fuggeft to them many 
beautiful figures. But, in order to relifh their 
figures of this kind, we muft take notice, that 
feveral of them ariie from the particular circum- 
ftances of the land of Judaea. During the fum- 
mer months, little or no rain falls throughout 



all that region. While the heats continued, the L E c r < 


country was intolerably parched ; want of water _t 

was a great diftrefs ; and a plentiful fhower falling, 

or a rivulet breaking forth, altered the whole face 

of nature, and introduced n^uch higher ideas of 

refreshment and pleafure, than the like cauies can 

fuggeft to us. Hence, to reprefent diftrefs, fuch 

frequent allufions amongft them, C{ to a dry and 

" thirfty land where no water is j" and hence, to 

defcribe a change from diftrefs to profperity, their 

metaphors are founded on the falling of fhowers, 

and the burfting out of fprings in the defart. 

Thus in Ifaiah, " The wildernefs and the folitary 

" place mail be glad, and the defart (hall rejoice 

** and blofTom as the rofe. For in the wildernefs 

<; mall waters break out, and ftreams in the de- 

" fart ; and the parched ground fhall become a 

* f pool j and the thirfty land, fprings of water j 

" in the habitation of dragons there fhall be grafs, 

" with rufhes and reeds." Chap. xxxv. i, 6, 7. 

Images of this nature are very familiar to Ifaiah, 

and occur in many parts of his Book. 

Again, as Judsea was a hilly country, it was, 
during the rainy months, expofed to frequent in- 
undations by the rufhing of torrents, which came 
down fuddenly from the mountains, and carried 
everything before them; and Jordan, their only 
great river, annually overflowed its banks. Hence 
the frequent allufions to <c the noife, and to the 
rufhings of many waters j" and hence great 



L xu T * ca l anrnt i es f° often compared to the overflowing 
* '- r -* torrent, which, in fuch a country, mult have 
been images particularly finking: " Deep calleth 
t£ unto deep at the noiie of thy water-fpouts ; all 
" thy waves and thy billows are gone over me." 
Pfalm xlii. 7. 

The two moil remarkable mountains of the 
country, were Lebanon and Carmel s the former 
noted for its height, and the woods of lofty cedars 
that covered it ; the latter, for its beauty and fer- 
tility, the richnefs of its vines and olives. Hence, 
with the greateft propriety, Lebanon is employed 
as an image of whatever is great, ftrong, or mag- 
nificent ; Carmel, of what is fmiiing and beau- 
tiful. cc The glory of Lebanon," fays Ifaiah, 
" fhall be given to it, and the excellency of Car- 
£C mel." (xxxv. 2.) Lebanon is often put me- 
taphorically for the whole (late or people of Ifrael, 
for the temple, for the king of Affyria j Carmel, 
for the bleffings of peace and profperity. " His 
*' countenance is as Lebanon," fays Solomon, 
fpeaking of the dignity of a man's appearance; but 
when he defcribes female beauty, " Thine head is 
" like mount Carmel." Song, v. 15. and vii. 5. 

It is farther to be remarked under this head, 
that in the images of the awful and terrible kind, 
with which the Sacred Poets abound, they plainly 
draw their defcriptions from that violence of the 
elements, and thofe concufiions of nature, with 
4 which 


which their climate rendered them acquainted. 
Earthquakes were not unfrequentj and the tem- 
ped of hail, thunder, and lightning, in Judfsa 
and Arabia, accompanied with whirlwinds and 
darknefs, far exceed any thing of that fort which 
happens in more temperate regions. Ifaiah de- 
fcribes, with great majefty, the earth " reeling to 
<c and fro like a drunkard, and removed like a 
{C cottage." (xxiv. 20.) And in thofe circum- 
flances of terror, with which an appearance of thz 
Almighty is defcribed in the 18th Pfalm, when 
his " pavilion round about him was darknefs j 
" when hailftones and coals of fire were his 
" voice -, and when, at his rebuke, the channels 
" of the waters are faid to be feeii, and the foun- 
" dations of the hills difcoveredj" though there 
may be fome reference, as Dr. Lowth thinks, to 
the hiftory of God's defcent upon Mount Sinai, 
yet it feems more probable, that the figures were 
taken directly from thofe commotions of nature 
with which the Author was acquainted, and which 
fuggefted ftronger and nobler images than what 
now occur to us. 

Besides the natural objects of their own country, 
we find the rites of their religion, and the arts and 
employments of their common life, frequently 
employed as grounds of imagery among the He- 
brews. They were a people chiefly occupied with 
agriculture and pafturage. Thefe were arts held 
in high honour among them ; not difdained by 

vol, 1:1. n their 


l e c t. their patriarchs, kings, and prophets. Little ad-- 
dieted to commerce; feparated from the reft of 
the world by their laws and their religion ; they 
were, during the better days of their ■ ftate, 
(Irangers in a great meafure to the refinements of 
luxury. Hence flowed, of courfe, the many al- 
lufions to paftoral life, to the " green paftures 
" and the (till waters," and to the care and 
watchfulnefs of a fhepherd over his flock, which 
carry to this day fo much beauty and tendernefs 
in them, in the 23d Pfalm, and in many other 
pafDges of the Poetical Writings of Scripture. 
Hence, all the images founded upon rural em- 
ployments, upon the wine-prefs, the threfhing 
floor, the ftubble and the chaff. To difrelifh all 
fuch images, is the effect of falfe delicacy. Ho- 
mer is at leafb as frequent, and much more minute 
and particular, in his fimilies, founded on what 
we now call low life; but, in his management of 
them, far inferior to the Sacred Writers, who ge- 
nerally mix with their companions of this kind 
fomewhat of dignity and. grandeur, to ennoble 
them. What inexpreflible grandeur does the fol- 
lowing rural image in Ifaiah, for inftance, receive 
from the intervention of the Deity : fc The 
" nations fhall rufh like the rufhings of many 
" waters ; but God fhall rebuke them, and they 
" fhall fly far off; and they fhall be chafed as the 
" chaff of the mountain before the wind, and like 
" the down of the thiftle before the whirlwind." 



Figurative allufions too, we frequently find, L £ c t. 
to the rites and ceremonies of their religion ; to 
the legal diftinctions of things clean and unclean ; 
to the mode of their Temple Service; to the 
drefs of their Priefls ; and to the moil noted inci- 
dents recorded in their Sacred Hiftory ; as to the 
destruction of Sodom, the defcent of God upon 
Mount Sinai, and the miraculous pafTage of the 
Ifraelites through the Red Sea. The religion of 
the Hebrews included the whole of their laws, and 
civil conftitution. It was full of fplendid external 
rites, that occupied their fenfes; it was connected 
with every part of their national hiftory and efta- 
blimment; and hence, all ideas founded on reli- 
gion, pollened in this nation a dignity and impor- 
tance peculiar to themfelves, and were uncom- 
monly fitted to imprefs the imagination. 

From all this it refults, that the imagery of the 
Sacred Poets is, in a high degree, expreffive and 
natural ; it is copied directly from real objects, 
that were before their eyes; it has this advantage, 
of being more complete within itfelf, more en- 
tirely founded on national ideas and manners, than 
that of moft other Poets. In reading their works, 
we find ourfclves continually in the land of Judaea. 
The palm-trees, and the cedars of Lebanon, are 
ever rifing in our view. The face of their terri- 
tory, the circumftances of their climate, the man- 
ners of the people, and the auguH: ceremonies 
of their religion, conftantly pafs under different 
forms before us. 

n 2 The 


The comparisons employed by the Sacred Poets 
are generally fhort, touching on one point only of 
refembkince, rather than branching out into little 
Epifodes. In this refpect, they have perhaps an 
advantage over the Greek and Roman Authors ; 
whofe companions, by the length to which they 
are extended, fometimes interrupt the narration 
too much, and carry too vifible marks of ftudy 
and labour. Whereas, in the Hebrew Poets, 
they appear more like the glowings of a lively 
fancy, jufr. glancing afide to fome refembling ob- 
ject, 2nd prefently returning to its track. Such is 
the following fine comparison, introduced to de- 
scribe the happy influence of good government 
upon a people, in what are called the lafb words 
of David, recorded in the 2d Book of Samuel 
(xxiii. 3.): " He that ruleth over men mud be 
" juft, ruling in the fear of God ; and he (hall be 
" as the light of the morning, when the Sun 
* c rifeth ; even a morning without clouds ; as the 
" tender grafs fpringrng out of the earth, by clear 
rt mining after rain." This is one of the mod regu- 
lar and formal companions in the Sacred Books. 

Allegory, likewife, is a figure frequently 
found in them. When formerly treating of this 
figure, I gave, for an inftance of it, that remark- 
ably fine and well-fupported Allegory, which oc- 
curs in the Scth Pfalm, wherein the People of 
Ifrael are compared to a vine. Of Parables, 
which form a fpecies of Allegory, the Prophetical 
Writings are full : and if to us they fometimes 



appear obfcure, we rnuft remember, that in thofe 
early times, it was univerfally the mode through- 
out all the eaftern nations, to convey facred truths 
under myfterious figures and reprefentacions. 

But the Poetical Figure, which, beyond all 
others, elevates the Style of Scripture, and gives 
it a peculiar boldnefs and fubiimity, is Prolbpo- 
pceia or Perfonification. No Perfonifications em- 
ployed by any Poets, are fo magnificent and ftrik- 
ing as thofe of the Infpired Writers. On great 
occafions, they animate every part of na:ure j ef- 
pecially, when any appearance or operation of the 
Almighty is concerned. tc Before him went the 
" peftilence — the waters faw thee, O God, and 
<c were afraid — the mountains faw thee, and they 
" trembled — The overflowing of the water pafied 
tc by ; — the deep uttered his voice, and lifted up 
tc his hands on high." When enquiry is made 
about the place of wifdom, job introduces th,e 
<c Deep, laying, it is not in me ; and the 
<c fea faith, it is not in me. Deftruclion and 
u death fay, we have heard the fame thereof 
cc with our ears." That noted fublime pafTage in 
the Book of lfaiah, which deicribes the fall of the 
King of Aflyria, is full of perfonified objects; the 
fir trees and ccedars of Lebanon breaking forth into 
exultation on the fall of the tyrant; Hell from be- 
neath, ftirring up all the dead to meet him at his 
coming ; and the dead Kings introduced as fpeak- 
|ng, and joining in the triumph. In the fame 
n 3 ftrajij 


l EC t. ft r ain are thefe many lively and paffionate apof- 
trophes to cities and countries, to perfons and 
things, with which the Prophetical Writings every 
where abound. tc O thou fvvord of the Lord! 
cc how long will it be ere thou be quiet ? put 
<c thyfclf up into the fcabbard, reft and be ftill. 
" How can it be quiet," (as the reply is inftantly 
made,) " feeing the Lord hath given it a charge 
iC againft Afkelon, and the fea-fhore ? there hath 
<c he appointed it." Jerem. xlvii. 6. 

In general, for it would carry us too far to en- 
large upon all the inftances, the Style of the Poe- 
tical Books of the Old Teftament is, beyond the 
Style of all other Poetical Works, fervid, bold, 
and animated. It is extremely different from that 
regular correct exDreffion, to which our ears are 
accuftomed in Modern Poetry. It is the burft of 
infpiration. The fcenes are not coolly defcribed, 
but reprefented as paffing before our eyes. Every 
object, and every perfon, is addrefTed and fpoken 
to, as if prefent. The tranfition is often abrupt j 
the connection often obfcure ; the perfons are of- 
ten changed j figures crowded, and heaped upon 
one another. Bold fublimity, not correct ele- 
gance, is its character. We fee the fpirit of the 
Writer raifed beyond himfelf, and labouring to 
find vent for ideas too mighty for his utterance. 

After thefe remarks on the Poetry of the 
Scripture in general, I fhall conclude this DiiTer- 



tation, with a fhort account of the different kinds l e c t. 
of Poetical Compofition in the Sacred Books ; 
and of the diftinguifhing characters of fome of the 
chief Writers. 

The feveral kinds of Poetical Compofition 
which we find in Scripture, are chiefly the Di- 
dactic, Elegiac, Paftoral, and Lyric. Of the 
Didactic fpecies of Poetry, the Book of Proverbs 
is the principal inftance. The nine firfl: Chapters 
of that Book are highly poetical, adorned with 
many diftinguifhed graces, and figures of expref- 
fion. At the 10th Chapter, the Style is fenfibly 
altered, and defccnds into a lower (train, which 
is continued to the end ; retaining however that 
fententious, pointed manner, and that artful con- 
ftruction of period, which diftinguifh all the He- 
brew Poetry. The Book of Ecclefiaftes comes 
likewife under this head ; and fome of the Pfalms, 
as the 119th in particular. 

Of Eiegiac Poetry, many very beautiful fpe- 
cimens occur in Scripture ; fuch as the Lamenta- 
tion of David over his friend Jonathan ; feveral 
pafTages in the Prophetical Books; and feveral of 
David's Pfalms, compofed on occafions of diftrefs 
and mourning. The 42d Pfalm, in particular, 
is, in the higheft degree, tender and plaintive. 
But the moft regular and perfect Elegiac Compo- 
fition in the Scripture, perhaps in the whole world, 
is the Book, entitled the Lamentations of Jere- 
n 4 miah. 


L EC T. m ] an< As the Prophet mourns in that book over 
the deftruclion of the Temple, and the Holy City, 
and the overthrow of the whole State, he afiembles 
all the affecting images which a fubject fo melan- 
choly could fugged. The Compofition is uncom- 
monly artificial. By turns, the Prophet, and the 
city Jerufalem, are introduced, as pouring forth 
their forrows ; and in the end, a chorus of the 
people fend up the moft earneft and plaintive fup- 
plications to God. The lines of the original too, 
as nay, in part, appear from our Tranflation, are 
longer than is ufual in the other kinds of Hebrew 
Poetry ■, and the melody is rendered thereby more 
flowing, and better adapted to the querimonious 
ftrain of Elegy. 

The Song of Solomon affords us a high exem- 
plification of Paftoral Poetry. Confidered with 
refpect to its fpiritual meaning, it is undoubtedly 
a royilical Allegory ; in its form, it is a Dramatic 
paftoral, or a perpetual Dialogue between perfon- 
ages in the character of Shepherds ; and, fuitably 
to that form, it is full of rural and paftoral images, 
from beginning to end. 

Of Lyric Poetry, or that which is intended to 
be accompanied with Mufic, the Old Teftament 
is full. Befides a great number of Hymns and 
Songs, which we find fcattered in the Hiftorieal 
and Prophetical Books, fuch as the Song of 
Mofes,, the Song of Deborah, and many others 



of like nature, the whole Book of Pfalms is to be L ^ c t. 
confidered as a collection of Sacred Odes. In <- -»- * A 
thefe, we find the Ode exhibiced in all the varie- 
ties of its form, and iupported with the higheft 
fpirit of Lyric Poetry ; fometimes fprightly, cheer- 
ful, and triumphant , fometimes iolemn and mag- 
nificent ; fometimes tender and fofc. From thefe 
inftances, it clearly appears, that there are contained 
in the Holy Scriptures, full exemplifications of 
feveral of the chief kinds of Poetical Writing. 

Among the different Compofers of the Sacred 
Books, there is an evident diverfity of ftyie and 
manner; and to trace their different characters in 
this view, will contribute not a little towards our 
reading their Writings with greater advantage. 
The mod: eminent of the Sacred Poets are, the 
Author of the Book of Job, David, and Ifaiah. 
As the Compofitions of David are of the Lyric 
kind, there is a greater variety of ftyle and man- 
ner in his works, than in thofe of the other two. 
The manner in which, confidered merely as a 
Poet, David chiefly excels, is the pleafmg, the 
foft, and the tender. In his Pfalms, there are 
many lofty and fublime paffages -, but in ftrength 
of defcription, he yields to Job ; in fublimity, he 
yields to Ifaiah. It is a fort of temperate gran- 
deur, for which David is chiefly diftinguifhed ; and 
to this he always foon returns, when, upon fome 
occafions,-he rifes above it. The Pfalms in which 
he touches us mod, are thofe in which he defcribes 
{he happinefs of the righteous, or the goodnefs of 

God j 


l e c t. God ; expreffes the tender breathings of a devout 

v r i 

mind, or fends up moving and affectionate fup- 
plications to Heaven. Ifaiah is, without excep- 
tion, the moft fublime of all Poets. This is 
abundantly vifible in our Tranflation ; and, what 
is a material circumftance, none of the Books of 
Scripture appear to have been more happily tranf- 
lated than the Writings of this Prophet. Majcfty 
is his reigning character ; a majefty more com- 
manding, and more uniformly fupported, than is 
to be found among the reft of the Old Teftamenr. 
Poets. He pofieffes, indeed, a dignity and gran- 
deur, both in his conceptions and'expreflions, which 
is altogether unparalleled, and peculiar to himfelf. 
There is more clearnefs and order too, and a more 
vifible distribution of parts, in his Book, than in 
any other of the Prophetical Writings. 

When we compare him with the reft of the 
Poetical Prophets, we immediately fee in Jere- 
miah, a very different genius. Ifaiah employs 
himfelf generally on magnificent fubjects. Jere- 
miah feldom difcovers any difpofition to be fub- 
lime, and inclines always to the tender and elegiac. 
Ezechiel, in poetical grace and elegance, is much 
inferior to them both j but he is diftinguifhed by a 
character of uncommon force and ardour. To ufe 
the elegant expreflions of Bifhop Lowth, with 
regard to this Prophet: "Eft atrox, vehemens, 
<c tragicus ; in fenfibus, fervidus, acerbus, indig- 
£f nabundus; in imaginibus fecundus, truculentus, 
" etnonnunquampene deformisj in dictione gran- 

<c diloquus, 


<c diloquus, gravis, aufterus, et interdum incultus; l e c t. 
Cf frequens in repetitionibus, non decoris aut gra- 
ct tias caufa, fed ex indignatione et violentia. Quic- 
" quid fufceperit tractandum id fedulo perfequitur; 
<c in eo unice hseret defixus ; a propofito raro de- 
<f flectens. In cseteris, a plerifque vatibus fortaffe 
<f fuperatus ; fed in eo genere, ad quod videtur a 
tc natura unice comparatus, nimirum, vi, pondere, 
" impetu, grandicace, nemo unquam eum fuper- 
<f avit." The fame learned Writer compares 
Ifaiah to Homer, Jeremiah to Simonides, and 
Ezechiel to iEfchylus. Moft of the Book of 
Ifaiah is ftrictly Poetical j of Jeremiah and Eze- 
chiel, not above one half can be held to belong 
to Poetry. Among the Minor Prophets, Hofea, 
Joel, Micah, Habakkuk, and efpecially Nahum, 
are diftinguifhed for poetical fpirit. In the Pro- 
phecies of Daniel and Jonah, there is no Poetry. 

It only now remains to fpeak of the Book of 
Job, with which I fhall conclude. It is known to 
be extremely antient; generally reputed the moft 
ancient of all the Poetical Books ; the Author 
uncertain. It is remarkable, that this Book 
has no connection with the affairs, or manners 
of the Jews, or Hebrews. The fcene is laid in 
the land of Uz, or Idum£ea, which is a part of 
Arabia j and the imagery employed is generally of 
a different kind, from what I before fhowed to be 
peculiar to the Hebrew Poets. We meet with no 
allufions to the great events of Sacred Hifcory, to 
the religious rites of the Jews, to Lebanon or to 



Carmel, or any of the peculiarities of the climate 
of Judsea. We find few companions founded on 
rivers or torrents ; thefe were not familiar objects 
in Arabia, But the longed comparifon that occurs 
in the Book, is to an object frequent and well 
known in that region, a brook that fails in the fea- 
fon of heat, and difappoints the expectation of the 

The Poetry, however, of the Book of Job is 
not only equal to that of any other of Sacred 
Writings, but is fuperior to them all, except thofe 
of Ifaiah alone. As Ifaiah is the molt fublime, 
David the moft pleafing and tender, fo Job is the 
mod defcriptive, of all the Infpired Poets. A pe- 
culiar glow of fancy, and ftrmgth of defcription, 
characterife the Author. No Writer whatever 
abounds fo much in Metaphors. He may be faid, 
not to dcfcribe, but to render vifible, whatever he 
treats of. A variety of inftances might be given. 
Let us remark only thofe ftrong and lively co- 
lours, with which, in the following parages, taken 
from the t 8th and 20th Chapters of his Book, he 
paints the condition of the wicked ; obferve how 
rapidly his figures rife before us ; and what a deep 
impreflion, at the fame time, they leave on the 
the imagination. " Knoweft thou not this of old, 
£C fmce man was placed upon the earth, that the 
" triumphing of the wicked is fhort, and the joy 
<£ of the hypocrite, but for a moment ? Though 
11 his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his 
*< head reach the clouds, yet he fh.ll perifh for 

" ever P 


Cf ever. He fhall fly away as a dream, and fhall 
" not be found ; yea, he fhall be chafed away as a 
f< vifion of the night. The eye alfo which faw 
" him, fhall fee him no more j they which have 
M feen him fhall fay, where is he ? He fhall fuck 
,c the poifon of afps ; the viper's tongue fhall flay 
f( him. In the fullnefs of his fufficiency, he fhall 
" be in ftraits ; every hand fhall come upon him. 
" He fhall flee from the iron weapon, and the bow 
tc of fteel fhall ftrike him through. All darknefs 
" fhall be hid in his fecret places. A fire not 
* c blown fhall confume him. The Heaven fhall 
" reveal his iniquity, and the earth fhall rife up 
<c againft him. The increafe of his houfe fhall 
" depart. His goods fhall flow away in the day 
" of wrath. The light of the wicked fhall be puc 
" out; the light fhall be dark in his tabernacle. 
cc The fteps of his ftrength fhall be ftraitened, and 
fC his own counfel fhall caft him down. For he 
<c is caft into a net by his own feet. Fie walketh 
fi upon a fnare. Terrors fhall make him afrajd 
< c on every fide ; and the robber fhall prevail 
<f againfl: him. Brimftone fhall be fcattered upon 
" his habitation. Flis remembrance fhall perifh 
(C from the earth, and he fnall have no name in 
" the (Ireet. Fie fnall be driven from lioht into 


u darknefs. They that come after him fhall be 
" aftonilhed at his day. Fie fhall drink of the 
" wrath of the Almighty." 



l e c t. t t now remains to treat of the two higheft kinds 
fa X ^ IL , * of Poetical Writing, the Epic and the Dra- 
matic. I begin with the Epic. This Lecture 
ihall be employed upon the general principles of 
that fpecies of Compofition : after which, I (hall 
take a view of the character and genius of the 
rrioft celebrated Epic Poets. 

The Epic Poem is univerfally allowed to be, of 
all poetical works, the mod dignified, and, at the 
fame time, the molt difficult in execution. To 
contrive a ftory which mall pleafe and intereft all 
Readers, by being at once entertaining, important, 
and instructive ; to fill it with fuitable incidents j 
to enliven it with a variety of characters, and of 
defcripdons ; and, throughout a long work, to 
maintain that propriety of fentiment, and that ele- 
vation of Style, which the Epic Character requires, 
is unqueftionably the higheft effort of Poetical 
j Genius. 

E P I C P O E T R Y. i 9 i 

Genius. Hence Co very few have fucceeded in L E c T - 
the attempt, that ftricl Critics will hardly allow <■ 

any other Poems to bear the name of Epic, except 
the Iliad, and the .ZEneid. 

There is no fubjedt, it mud be confefTed, on 
which Critics have difplayed more pedantry, than 
on this. By tedious . Difquifitions, founded on a 
fervile fubmiflion to authority, they have given 
fuch an air of myfiery to a plain fu eject, as to 
render it difficult for an ordinary Reader to con- 
ceive, what an Epic Poem is. By Boflu's defini- 
tion, it is a Diicourfe invented by art, purely to 
form the manners of men, by means of inftruc- 
tions difguifed under the allegory of feme impor- 
tant action, which is related in Verfe. This defi- 
nition would fuit feveral of iEfop's Fables, if they 
were fomewhat extended, and put into Verfe: 
and, accordingly, to illuftrate his definition, the 
Critic draws a parallel, in form, between the con- 
duction of one of iEfop's Fables, and the plan 
of Homer's Iliad. The firft thing, fays he, which 
either a Writer of Fables, or of Heroic Poems, 
does, is to choofe fome maxim or point of mo- 
rality ; to inculcate which, is to be the defign of 
his work. Next, he invents a general itory, or a 
feries of facts, without any names, fuch as he 
judges will be moft proper for illuftrating his 
tended Moral. Laftly, he particularises his (lory; 
that is, if he be a Fabulift, he introduces his do , 
his fheep, and his wolfi or if he be an Epic Poet, 



L xlu T " ^ e *°°k s out ln Antient Hiftory for fame proper 
names of heroes to give to his actors; and then 
his plan is completed. 

This is one of the mod" frigid, and abfurd 
ideas, that ever entered into the mind of a Critic. 
Homer, he fays, faw the Grecians divided into a 
great number of independent States ; but very 
often obliged to unite into one bodv a^ainft their 
common enemies. The mod: ufeful in(lru£tion 
which he could give them in this fituation, was, 
that a mifunderftanding between princes is the ruin 
of the common caufe. In order to enforce this 
instruction, he contrived, in his own mind, fuch 
a general ftory as this. Several princes join in a 
confederacy againft their enemy. The prince, 
who was chofen as the leader of the reft, affronts 
one of the molt valiant of the confederates, who 
thereupon withdraws himfelf, and refufes to take 
part in the common enterprise* Great misfor- 
tunes are the confequence of this divifion ; till, at 
length, both parties having differed by the quarrel, 
the offended prince forgets his difpleafure, and is 
reconciled to the leader; and union being once 
reftored, there enfues complete victory over their 
enemies. Upon this general plan of his Fable, 
adds Boffu, it was of no great confequence, whe- 
ther, in filling it up, Homer had employed the 
names of beafts, like Mfop, or of men. He 
would have been equally inftructive *either way. 
But as he rather fancied to write of heroes, he 
ij pitched 


pitched upon the war of Troy for the fcene of his 
Fable ; he feigned flich an action to happen there; 
he gave the name of Agamemnon, to the common 
leader; that of Achilles, to the offended prince; 
and- fo the Iliad arofe. 

He that can believe Homer to have proceeded 
in this manner, may believe any thing. One may 
pronounce, with great certainty, that an Author 
who fhould compofe according to fuch a plan ; 
who fhould arrange all the fubject, in his own 
mind, with a view to the moral, before he had 
ever thought of the perfonages who were to be the 
Actors, might write, perhaps, ufeful Fables for 
children ; but as to an Epic Poem, if he adven- 
tured to think ot one, it would be fuch as would 
find few Readers. No perfon of any tafte can 
entertain a doubt, that the firfb objects which 
ftrike an Epic Poet are, the Hero whom he is to 
celebrate, and the Action, or Story, which is to 
be the ground-work of his Poem. He does not 
fit down, like a Philofopher, to form the plan of 
a Treatife of Morality. His genius is fired by 
fome great enterprize, which, to him, appears 
noble and interesting ; and which, therefore, he 
pitches upon as worthy of being celebrated in the 
higheft ftrain of Poetry. There is no fubject of 
this kind, but will always afford fome general 
moral inftruction, arifing from it naturally. The 
inftruction which Boffu points out, is certainly 
fuggefted by the Iliad ; and there is another which 
vol. nr. o arifei. 


L E C T. 

arifes as naturally, and may juft as well be affigned 
for the moral of that Poem ; namely, that Provi- 
dence avenges thofe who have fuffered injuftice; 
but that when they allow their refentment to carry 
them too far, it brings misfortunes on themfelves. 
The fubject of the Poem, is the wrath of Achilles, 
caufed by the injuftice of Agamemnon. Jupiter 
avenges Achilles, by giving fuccefs to the Trojans 
againft Agamemnon ; but by continuing obftinate 
in his refentment,' Achilles lofes his beloved friend 

The plain account of the . nature of an Epic 
Poem is, the recital of fome illuftrious enterprife 
in a Poetical Form. This is as exact a definition, 
as there is any occafion for on this fubjecl. It 
comprehends feveral other Poems befides the Iliad 
of Homer, the iEneid of Virgil, and the Jeru- 
falem of Taflb; which are, perhaps, the three 
moft regular and complete Epic Works that ever 
were compofed. But to exclude all Poems from 
the Epic Clafs, which are not formed exactly upon 
the fame model as thefe, is the pedantry of Criti- 
cifm. We can give exact definitions, and de- 
fcriptions of minerals, plants, and animals j and 
can arrange them with precifion, under the diffe- 
rent claffes to which they belong, becaufe Nature 
affords a vi'fible unvarying flandard, to which we 
refer them. But with regard to works of tafte 
and imagination, where Nature has fixed no 
iiandard, but leaves fcope for beauties of many 



different kinds, it is abfurd to attempt defining, 
and limiting them, with the fame precifion. Cri- 
ticifm, when employed in fuch attempts, degene- 
rates into trifling queftions about words and names 
only. I therefore have no fcruple to clafs fuch 
Poems, as Milton's Paradife Loft, Lucan's 
Pharfalia, Statius's Thebaid, Offian's Fingal and 
Temora, Camoen's Lufiad, Voltaire's Henriade, 
Cambray's Telemachus, Glover's Leonidas, Wil- 
kie's Epigoniad, under the fame fpecies of Com- 
pofition with the Iliad and the iEneid ; though 
fome of them approach much nearer than 
others to the perfection of thefe celebrated Works* 
They are, undoubtedly, all Epic ; that is, poe- 
tical recitals of great adventures ; which is all 
that is meant by this denomination of Poetry. 

Though I cannot, by any means, allow, thae 
it is the eflence of an Epic Poem to be wholly an 
Allegory, or a Fable contrived to illuftrate fome 
moral truth, yet it is certain that no Poetry is of 
a more moral nature than this. Its effect in pro- 
moting virtue, is not to be meafured by any one 
maxim, or inftruction, which refults from the 
whole ftory, like the moral of one of iEfop's Fa- 
bles. This is a poor and trivial view of the ad- 
vantage to be derived from perufmg a long Epic 
Work, that, at the end, we mail be able to gather 
from it fome common-place morality. Its effect 
arifes, from the imprefiion which the parts of the 
Poem feparately, as well as the whole taken toge- 

o 2 ther 3 


L !L C „ T ' ther, make upon the mind of the Reader; from 
d. — z^ .— i the great examples which it fets before us, and the 
high fentiments with which it warms our hearts. 
The end which it propofes, is to extend our ideas 
of human perfection ; or in other words to excite 
admiration. Now this can be accomplished only, 
by proper reprefentations of heroic deeds, and 
virtuous characters. For high virtue is the object, 
which all mankind are formed to admire; and, 
therefore, Epic Poems are, and mud be, favour- 
able to the caufe of virtue. Valour, Truth, 
Juftice, Fidelity, Friendship, Piety, Magnani- 
mity, are the objects which, in the courfe of fuch 
Compactions, are prefented to our minds, under 
the moft fplendid and honourable colours. In be- 
half of virtuous perfonages, our affections are en- 
gaged ; in their defigns, and their diftrefles, we 
are interefted ; the generous and public affections 
are awakened; the mind is purified from fenfual 
and mean purfuits, and accuftomed to take part 
in great, heroic enterprifes. It is, indeed, no 
imall teftimony in honour of virtue, that feveral 
of the moft refined and elegant entertainments of 
mankind, fuch as that fpscies of Poetical Compo- 
fition which we now confider, muft be grounded 
on moral fentiments and imprefiions. This is a 
teftimony of fuch weight, that, were it in the 
power of fceptical Philofophers, to weaken the 
force of thofe reafonings which eftablifh the efTen- 
tial distinction between Vice and Virtue, the wit* 
ings of Epic Poets alone were fufficiene to refute 



their falfe Philofophy; mowing, by that appeal 
which they conftantly make to the feelings of 
mankind in favour of virtue, that the founda- 
tions of it are laid deep, and ftrong, in human 

The general ftrain and fpirit of Epic Compofi- 
tion, fufHciently mark its diftinction from the other 
kinds of Poetry. In Paftoral Writing, the reign- 
ing idea is innocence and tranquillity. Compaf- 
fion is the great object of Tragedy; Ridicule, 
the province of Comedy. The predominant cha- 
racter of the Epic is, admiration excited by heroic 
actions. It is fufHciently diftinguiftied from Hif- 
tory, both by its poetical form, and the liberty of 
fiction which it aflumes. It is a more calm com- 
pofirion than Tragedy. It admits, nay requires, 
the pathetic and the violent, on particular occa- 
fions ; but the pathetic is not expected to be its 
general character. It requires, more than any 
other fpecies of Poetry, a grave, equal, and fup- 
ported dignity. It takes in a greater compafs of 
time and action, than Dramatic Writing admits; 
and thereby allows a more full difplay of charac- 
ters. Dramatic Writing difplays characters chiefly 
by means of fentiments and paftions; Epic Poetry, 
chiefly by means of actions. The emotions, 
therefore, which it raifes, are not fo violent, but 
they are more prolonged. Thefe are the general 
characteristics of this fpecies of Compofition. 
But, in orde to give a more particular and criti- 
cal view of it, let us confider the Epic Poem under 
3 three 

l e c T. 



L xur T three heads ; firft, with refpect to the Subject, 
c — r — ; or Action ; fecondly, with refpect to the Actors, 

or Characters ; and laftly, with refpect: to the 

Narration of the Poet. 

The action, or fubject of the Epic Poem, 
muft have three properties : it mud be one ; it 
muft be great j it muft be interefting. 

First, it muft be one Action, or Enterprife, 
which the Poet choofes for his fubject. I have 
frequently had occafion to remark the importance 
of unity, in many kinds of Compofition, in order 
to make a full and ftrong impreffion upon the 
mind. With the higheft reafon, Ariftotle infifts 
upon this, as eflential to Epic Poetry j and it is, 
indeed, the moft material of all his rules refpecting 
it. For it is certain, that, in the recital of heroic 
adventures, feveral fcattered and independent facts 
can never affect a Reader fo deeply, nor engage 
his attention fo ftrongly, as a tale that is one and 
connected, where the feveral incidents hang upon 
one another, and are all made to confpire for the 
accomplifhment of one end. In a regular Epic, 
the more fenfible this unity is rendered to the ima- 
gination, the better will be the effect ; and for this 
reafon, as Ariftotle has obferved, it is not fuffici- 
ent for the Poet to confine himfelf to the actions 
of one man, or to thofe which happened during a 
certain period of timej but the unity muft lie in 
the fubject itfelf, and arife from all the parts com- 
bining into one whole. 



In all the great Epic Poems, unity of action 
is fufficiently apparent. Virgil, for inftance, has 
chofen for his fubject, the eftablifhment of iEneas 
in Italy. From the beginning to the end of the 
Poem, this object is ever in our view, and links 
all the parts of it together with full connection. 
The unity of the OdyfTey is of the fame nature ; 
the return and re-eftablifhment of Ulyffes in his own 
country. The fubject of Taflb, is the recovery 
of Jerufalem from the Infidels j that of Milton, 
the expulfion of our firft parents from Paradife ; 
and both of them are unexceptionable in the unity 
of the Story. The profefTed fubject of the Iliad, 
is the anger of Achilles, with the confequences 
which it produced. The Greeks carry on many 
unfuccefsful engagements againft the Trojans, as 
long as they are deprived of the affiftance of 
Achilles. Upon his being appeafed and recon- 
ciled to Agamemnon, victory follows, and the 
Poem clofes. It mud be owned, however, that 
the Unity, or connecting principle, is not quite fo 
fenfible to the imagination here as in the iEneid. 
For, throughout many books of the Iliad, Achilles 
is out of fight ; he is loft in inaction ; and the 
fancy terminates on no other object, than the fuc- 
cefs of the two armies whom we fee contending in 

The unity of the Epic Action is not to be (o 

ftrictiy interpreted, as if it excluded all Epifodes, 

or fubprdinate actions. It is neceffary to obferve 

o 4 here, 


zoo E P I C P O E T R Y. 

L xlu T " nere > ^ at C ^ e term Epifode is employed by Arif- 
t— v— «i totle, in a different fenfe from what we now give 
to it. It was a term originally applied to Dra- 
matic Poetry, and thence transferred to Epic ; 
and by Epifodes, in an Epic Poem, it fhould 
feem that Ariftotle underftood the extenfion of the 
general Fable, or plan of the Poem, into all its 
circumftances. What his meaning was, is, in- 
deed, not very clear ; and this obfcurity has occa- 
fioned much altercation among Critical Writers. 
Boffu, in particular, is lb perplexed upon this 
fubject, as to be aimoft unintelligible. But, dif- 
miffing fo fruitlefs a controverfy, what we now 
underftand by Epifodes, are certain actions, or 
v incidents, introduced into the narration, connected 
with the principal action, yet not of fuch impor- 
tance as to deflroy, if they had been omitted, the 
main fubject of the Poem. Of this nature are 
the interview of Hector with Andromache, in the 
Iliad ; the ilory of Cacus, and that of Nifus and 
Euryalus, in the iEneidj the adventures of Tan- 
cred with Erminia and Clorinda, in the Jeru- 
falem ; and the profpect of his defcendants ex- 
hibited to Adam, in the laft books of Paradife 

Such Epifodes as thefe, are not only permitted 
to an Epic Poet ; but, provided they be properly 
executed, are great ornaments to his work. The 
rules regarding them are the following : 



First, They muft be naturally introduced; L ^ c T - 
they muft have a fufficient connection with the 
fubject of the Poem; they muft feem inferior 
parts that belong to it ; not mere appendages 
(luck to it. The Epifode of Olinda and So- 
phronia, in the fecond book of TafTo's Jerufalem, 
is faulty, by tranfgrefiing this rule. It is too 
much detached from the reft of the work ; and 
being introduced fo near the opening of the Poem, 
mifleads the Reader into an expectation, that it 
is to be of fome future confequence; whereas It 
proves to be connected with nothing that follows. 
In proportion as any Epifode is (lightly related to 
the main fubjecl;, it (hould always be the (horter. 
The paffion of Dido in the iEneid, and the fnares 
of Armida in the Jerufalem, which are expanded 
fo fully in thefe Poems, cannot, with propriety, 
be called Epifodes. They are conftituent parts of 
the work, and form a confiderable fhare of the in- 
trigue of the Poem. 

In the next place, Epifodes ought to prefent to 
us, objects of a different kind, from thofe which 
go before, and thofe which follow, in the courfe 
of the Poem. For it is principally for the fake of 
variety, that Epifodes are introduced into an Epic 
Compofition. In fo long a work, they tend to 
diverfify the fubject, and to relieve the Reader, 
by fhifting the fcene. In the midft of combats, 
therefore, an Epifode of the martial kind would 
be out of place ; whereas, Hector's vifit to An- 

2©2 E P I C P O E T R Y. 

L x C i T * dromache ' n l ^ e Uiad) and Erminia's adventure 
y.^s^j with the Shepherd in the feventh book of the 

Jerufalem, afford us a well-judged and pleafing 

retreat from camps and battles. 

Lastly, As an Epifode is a profeffed embelliih- 
ment, it ought to be particularly elegant and well- 
finifhed j and, accordingly, it is, for the mod 
part, in pieces of this kind, that poets put forth 
their ftrength. The Epifodes of Teribazus and 
Ariana, in Leonidas, and of the death of Hercules, 
in the Epigoniad, are the two greateft beauties in 
thefe Poems. 

The unity of the Epic Action necenarily fup- 
pofes, that the Action be entire and complete j that 
is, as Ariftotle well expreffes it, that it have a 
beginning, a middle, and an end. Either by re- 
lating the whole, in his own perfon, or by intro- 
ducing fome of his Actors to relate what had 
pafTed before the opening of the Poem, the Author 
mud always contrive to give us full information of 
every thing that belongs to his fubjecl; he mud 
not leave our curiofity, in any article, ungratified ; . 
he muft bring us precifely to the accomplifhment 
of his plan ; and then conclude. 

The fecond property of the Epic Action, is, 
that it be great; that it have fufficient fplendour 
and importance, both to fix our attention, and to 
juftify the magnificent apparatus which the Poet 



beftows upon it. This is fo evidently requisite as L ^■ L C ? I T ' 
not to require illuftration ; and, indeed, hardly 
any who have attempted Epic Poetry, have failed 
in chufing fome fubject fufficiently important, 
either by the nature of the action, or by the fame 
of the perfonages concerned in it. 

It contributes to the grandeur of the Epic 
Subject, that it be not of a modern date, nor fall 
within any period of hiftory with which we are in- 
timately acquainted. Both Lucan and Voltaire 
have, in the choice of their fubjects, tranfgrefled 
this rule, and they have, upon that account, fuc- 
ceeded worfe. Antiquity is favourable to thofe 
high and auguft ideas, which Epic Poetry is de- 
figned to raife. It tends to aggrandife, in our 
imagination, both perfons and events ; and what 
is ftill more material, it allows the Poet the li- 
berty of adorning his fubject by means of fiction. 
Whereas, as foon as he comes within the verge 
of real and authenticated hiftory, this liberty is 
abridged. He muft either confine himfelf wholly, 
as Lucan has done, to ftrict hiftorical truth, at the 
expence of rendering his (lory jejune -, or, if he 
goes beyond it, like Voltaire in his Henriade, this 
difadvantage follows, that, in well-known events, 
the true and the fictitious parts of the plan do not 
naturally mingle, and incorporate with each other. 
Thefe obfervations cannot be applied to Dramatic 
Writing; where the perfonages are exhibited to us, 
not fo much that we may admire, as that we may 
io love 



love or pity them. Such pafilons are much more 
confident with the familiar hiilorical knowledge of 
the pcrfons who are to be the objects of them ; 
and even require them to be difplayed in the light, 
and with the failings, of ordinary men. Modern, 
and well-known hiftory, therefore, may furnifh 
very proper materials for Tragedy. But for Epic 
Poetry, where Heroifm is the ground-work, and 
where the object in view 3s to excite admiration, 
antient or traditionary hiftory is affuredly the 
fafeft region. There, the Author may lay hold on 
names, and characters, and events, not wholly 
unknown, on which to build his Story ; while, 
at the fame time, by reafon of the diftance of 
the period, or of the remotenefs of the fcene, 
fuflicient licence is left him for fiction and in- 

The third property required in the Epic Poem, 
is, that it be interefting. It is not fufficient for 
this purpofe that it be great. For deeds of mere 
valour, how heroic foever, may prove cold and 
tirefome. Much will depend on the happy choice 
of fome fuhject, which mall, by its nature, inte- 
reft the Public ; as when the Poet felects for his 
Hero, one who is the founder, or the deliverer, or 
the favourite of his nation ; or when he writes of 
atchievements that have been highly celebrated, or 
have been connected with important confequences 
to any public caufe. Mod of the great Epic 
Poems are abundantly fortunate in this refpect, and 



:o 5 

muft have been very interefting to thofe ages and l e c t. 

countries in which they were compofed. 

But the chief circumftance which renders an 
Epic Poem interefting, and which tends to intereft, 
not one age or country alone, but all Readers, is 
the fkilful conduct of the Author in the manage- 
ment of his fubject. He mult fo contrive his plan, 
as that it fhall comprehend many affecting inci- 
dents. He mud not dazzle us perpetually with 
valiant achievements j for all Pleaders tire of con- 
ftant fighting, and battles ; but he mull ftudy to 
touch our hearts. He may fometimes be awful 
and auguft -, he muft often be tender and pathetic ; 
he mult give us gentle and pleafing fcenes of love, 
friend (hip, and affection. The more an Epic 
Poem abounds with fituations which awaken the 
feelings of humanity, the more interefting it is ; 
and thefe form, always, the favourite paffages cf 
the work. I know no Epic Poets fo happy in this 
refpect as Virgil and TafTo. 

Much, too, depends on the characters of the 
Heroes, for rendering the Poem interefting; that 
they be fuch as fhall ftrongly attach the Readers, 
and make them take part in the dangers which the 
Heroes encounter. Thefe dangers, or obftacles, 
form what is called the Nodus, or the Intrigue of 
the Epic Poem ; in the judicious conduct of which, 
confifts much of the Poet's art. He muft roufe 
our attention, by a profpect of the difficulties 
6 which 



l e c t. which feem to threaten difappointment to ths 
enterprife of his favourite perfonages ; he muft 
make thefe difficulties grow and thicken upon us 
by degrees ; till, after having kept us, for fome 
time, in a ftate of agitation and fufpenfe, he paves 
the way, by a proper preparation of incidents, for 
the winding up of the plot in a natural and pro- 
bable manner. It is plain, that every tale which 
is defigned to engage attention, mull be conducted 
on a plan of this fort. 

A question has been moved, whether the 
nature of the Epic Poem does not require that it 
mould always end fuccefsfully ? Moft Critics are 
inclined to think, that a fuccefsful iflue is the moft 
proper j and they appear to have reafon on their 
fide. An unhappy conclufion deprefies the mind, 
and is oppohte to the elevating emotions which 
belong to this fpecies of Poetry. Terror and 
companion are the proper fubjects of tragedy 3 but 
as the Epic Poem is of larger compafs and extent, 
it were too much, if, after the difficulties and 
troubles which commonly abound in the progrefs of 
the Poem, the Author mould bring them all at laft 
to an unfortunate iffue. Accordingly, the general 
practice of Epic Poets is on the fide of a profperous 
conclufion; not, however, without fome exceptions. 
For two Authors of great name, Lucan and Milton, 
have held a contrary courie; the one concluding with 
the fubverfion of the Roman liberty; the other, with 
the expulfion of man from Paradife. 



With regard to the time or duration of the L | CT ' 

-r ■ XLU - 

Epic Action, no precife boundaries can be afcer- 

tained. A confiderable extent is always allowed 
to it, as it does not neceflarily depend on thofe 
violent paffions which can be fuppofed to have 
only a fhort continuance. The Iliad, which is 
formed upon the anger of Achilles, has, with 
propriety, the fhorteft duration of any of the 
great Epic Poems. According to Boffu, the 
action lafts no longer than forty-feven days. The 
action of the Odyffey, computed from the taking 
of Troy to the peace of Ithaca, extends to eight 
years and a half; and the action of the iEneid, 
computed in the fame way, from the taking of 
Troy to the death of Turnus, includes about fix 
years. But if we meafure the period only of the 
Poet's own narration, or compute from the time 
in which the Hero makes his firft appearance, till 
the conclufion, the duration of both thefe laft 
Poems is brought within a much fmaller compafs. 
The Odyffey, beginning with Ulyffes in the ifland 
of Calypfo, comprehends fifty-eight days only ; 
and the iEneid, beginning with the dorm, which 
throws iEneas upon the coaft of Africa, is reckon- 
ed to include, at the mod, a year and fome 

Having thus treated of the Epic Action, -or 
the Subject of the Poem, I proceed next to make 
fome obfervations on the Actors or Perfonas;es. 



As it is the bufinefs of an Epic Poet to copy- 
after nature, and to form a probable interefting 
tale, he muft ftudy to give all his perfonages 
proper and well fupported characters, fuch as 
difplay the features of human nature. This is 
what Ariftotle calls, giving manners to the Poem. 
It is by no means neceffary, that all his actors be 
morally good -, imperfect, nay, vicious characters 
may find a proper place ; though the nature of 
Epic Poetry feems to require, that the principal 
figures exhibited mould be fuch as tend to raife 
admiration and love, rather than hatred or con- 
tempt. But whatever the character be which a 
Poet gives to any cf his actors, he muft take care 
to prelerve it uniform, and confident with itfelf. 
Every thing which that perfon fays, or does, mult 
be fuited co it, and muft ferve to diftinguifh him 
from any other. 

Poetic characters may be divided into two 
kinds, general and particular. General characters 
are, fuch as wife, brave, virtuous, without any 
farther diftinction. Particular characters exprefs 
the fpecies of bravery, of wifdom, of virtue, for 
which any one is eminent. They exhibit the pe- 
culiar features which diftinguifh one individual 
from another, which mark the difference of the 
fame moral quality in different men, according a3 
it is combined with other difpoHtions in their tem- 
per. In drawing fuch particular characters, ge- 
,nius is chiefly exerted. How far each of the 




E C T. 

three great Epic Poets have diftinguifhed them- L 
felves in this part of Compofition, I fhall have ■ ,, ■_/ 
occafion afterwards to fhow, when I come to make 
remarks upon their works. It is fufficient now to 
mention, that it is in this part Homer has princi- 
pally excelled; TafTo has come the neareft to Ho- 
mer ; and Virgil has been the molt deficient. 


It has been the practice of all Epic Poets, to 
felect fome one perionage, whom they diftinguifh. 
above all the reft, and make the hero of the tale. 
This is confidered as efTential to Epic Compo- 
fition, and is attended with feveral advantages. 
It renders the unity of the fubjeel: more fenfible, 
when there is one principal figure, to which, as 
to a centre, all the re It refer. It tends to intereft 
us more in the enrerprize which is carried on ; 
and it gives the Poet an opportunity of exerting 
his talents for adorning and difplaying one cha- 
racter, with peculiar fplendour. It has been 
afked, who then is the hero of Paradife Loft ? 
The Devil, it has been anfwered by fome Critics ; 
and, in confequence of this idea, much ridicule 
and cenfure has been thrown upon Milton. But 
they have miftaken that Author's intention, by 
proceeding upon a fuppofition, that, in the con- 
clufion of the Poem, the hero mult needs be 
triumphant. Whereas Milton followed a different 
plan, and has given a tragic conclufion to a Poem, 
otherwife Epic in its form. For Adam is un- 
doubtedly his hero ; that is, the capital and moft 
interefting figure in his Poem. 

vol. in. p Besides 


Besides human adtors, there are perfonages of 
another kind, that ufually occupy no fmall place 
in Epic Poetry j I mean the gods, or fupernatural 
beings. This brings us to the confideration of 
what is called the Machinery of the Epic Poem ; 
the moil nice and difficult part of the fubject. 
Critics appear to me to have gone to extremes on 
both fides. Almofi: all the French Critics decide 
in favour of Machinery, as eflential to the confti- 
tution of an Epic Poem. They quote that fen- 
tence of Petronius Arbiter, as if it were an oracle, 
<f per ambages, Deorumque minifteria, precipi- 
" tandus eft liber fpiritus," and hold, that though 
a Poem had every other requifite that could be 
demanded, yet it could not be ranked in the Epic 
clafs, unlefs the main action was ca'rried on by the 
intervention of the gods. This decftion feems to 
be founded on rfo principle or reafon whatever, 
unlefs a fuperftitious reverence for the practice of 
Homer and Virgil. Tbefe Poets very properly 
embellifhed their (lory by the traditional tales and 
popular legends of their own country ; according 
to which, all the great tranfactions of the heroic 
times were intermixed with the fables of their 
deities. But does it thence follow, that in other 
countries, and other ages, where there is not the 
like advantage of current fuperftition, and popular 
credulity, Epic Poetry mull be wholly confined 
to antiquated fictions, and fairy tales ? Lucan has 
compofed a very fpirited Poem, certainly of the 
Epic kind, where neither gods nor fupernatural 
beings are at all employed. The Author of 



Leonidas has made an attempt of the fame kind, L E 9 T * 
not without fuccefs ; and beyond doubt, wherever 
a Poet gives us a regular heroic ftory, well con- 
nected in its parts, adorned with characters, and 
fupported with proper dignity and elevation, 
though his agents be every one of them human, 
he has fulfilled the chief requifites of this fort of 
Competition, and has a juft title to be clalTed 
with Epic Writers. 

But though I cannot admit that Machinery is 
neceffary or eiTential to the Epic plan, neither can 
I agree with fome late Critics of considerable name, 
who are for excluding it totally, as inconfiftent with 
that probability and imprefiion of reality, which, 
they think, mould reign in this kind of Writing*. 
Mankind do not confider Poetical Writings with 
fo philofophical an eye. They feek entertainment 
from them ; and for the bulk of Readers, indeed 
for almoft all men, the marvellous has a great 
charm. It gratifies and fills the imagination; and 
gives room for many a finking and fublime de- 
scription. In Epic Poetry, in particular, where 
admiration and lofty ideas are fuppofed to reign, 
the marvellous and fupernatural find, if any 
where, their proper place. They both enable the 
Poet to aggrandize his fubject, by means of thofe 
auguft and folemn objects which Religion intro- 

* See Elem. of Criticifm, ch. 22, 

p 2 duces 


duces into it ; and they allow him to enlarge and 
diverfify his plan, by comprehending within it 
heaven, and earth, and hell, men and invifible 
beings, and the whole circle of the Univerfe. 

At the fame time, in the ufe of this fuper- 
natural Machinery, it becomes a Poet to be tem- 
perate and prudent. He is not at liberty to in- 
vent what fyitem of the marvellous he pleafes. It 
muft always have fome foundation in popular be- 
lief. Fie muft avail himfelf in a decent manner, 
either of the religious faith, or the fuperftitious 
credulity of the country wherein he lives, or of 
which he writes, fo as to give an air of probability 
to events which are moft contrary to the common 
courfe of Nature. Whatever Machinery he em- 
ploys, he mull take care not to overload us with 
it j not to withdraw human actions and manners 
too much from view, nor to obfcure them under a 
cloud of incredible fictions. He muft always 
remember, thai his chief bufinefs is to relate to 
men, the actions and the exploits of men ; that it 
is by thefe principally he is to intereft us, and to 
touch our hearts ; and that if probability be alto- 
gether banifhed from his work, it can never make 
a deep or a lafting impreTion. Indeed, I know 
nothing more difficult in Epic Poetry, than to ad- 
juft properly the mixture of the marvellous with 
the probable -, fo as to gratify and amufe us with 
the one, without facrificing the other. I need 
hardly obferve, that thefe obfervations arTedt not 
7 the 


the conduct of Milton's works whofe plan being 
altogether theological, his fupernatural beings form 
not the machinery, but are the principal actors in 
the Poem. 

With regard to Allegorical Perfonages, Fame, 
Difcord, Love, and the like, it may be lately 
pronounced, that they form the worft machinery 
of any. In defcription they are fometimes allow- 
able, and may ferve for embellifhment ; but they 
mould never be permitted to bear any mare in the 
action of the Poem. For being plain and declared 
fictions, mere names of general ideas, to which 
even fancy cannot attribute any exiftence as per- 
fons, if they are introduced as mingling with hu- 
man actors, an intolerable confufion of fhadovvs 
and realities arifes, and all confiftency of action is 
utterly deftroyed. » 

In the Narration of the Poet, which is the lad 
head that remains to be confidered, it is not ma- 
terial, whether he relate the whole ftory in his own 
character, or introduce fome of his perfonages to 
relate any part of the action that had palled before 
the Poem opens. Homer follows the one method 
in his Iliad, and the other in his Odyfiey. Virgil 
has, in this refpect, imitated the conduct of the 
Odyfiey j Tafib that of the Iliad. The chief ad- 
vantage which arifes from any of the actors beintr 
employed to relate part of the ftory, is, that it al- 
lows the Poet, if he choofes it, to open with 

p 3 fome 


L E C 


: T - fome interesting fituation of affairs, informing us 
afterwards of what had paffcd before that period j 
and gives him the greater liberty of fpreading out 
fuch parts of the fubjecl as he is inclined to dwell 
upon in perfon, and of comprehending the reit 
within a ihort recital. Where the fubjecl: is of 
great extent, and comprehends the tranfactions of 
feveral years, as in the Odyffey and the iEneid, 
this method therefore feems preferable. When 
the fubjecl: is of fmaller compafs, and fhorter 
duration, as in the Iliad and the Jerufalem, the 
Poet may, without difadvantage, relate the whole 
in his own perfon. 

In the proposition of the fubjecl, the invoca- 
tion of the Mufe, and other ceremonies of the 
introduclion, Poets may vary at their pleafure. 
It is perfectly trifling to make thefe little formali- 
ties the object of precife rule, any farther, than 
that the fubject of the work fhouid always be 
clearly propofed, and without affected or unfuit- 
able pomp. For, according to Horace's noted 
rule, no Introduction fhouid ever let out too 
high, or promife too much, left the Author 
fhouid not fulfil the expectations he has railed. 

What is of mod importance in the tenor of 

the narration is, that it be perfpicuous, animated, 

and enriched with all the beauties of Poetry. No 

fort of Compofition requires more ftrength, dig- 

, and fire, than the Epic Poem. It is the 



region within which we look for every thins; that L !L ( r, T " 

. ' . XI.1I. 

is fublime in defcription, tender in fentiment, and 
bold and lively in exprefTion ; and therefore, 
though an Author's plan fhould be faultlefs, and 
his (lory ever fo well conducted, yet, if he be 
feeble, or flat in Style, deftitute of affecting 
fcenes, and deficient in poetical colouring, he can 
have no fuccefs. The ornaments which Epic 
Poetry admits, mult all be of the grave and 
chafte kind. Nothing that is loofe, ludicrous, or 
affected, finds any place there. All the objects 
which it prefents ought tc be either great, or ten- 
der, or pleafing. Defcriptions of difgufting or 
fhocking objects, fhould as much as poffibie be 
avoided i and therefore the fable of the Harpies, 
in the third book of the /Eneid, and the allegory 
of Sin and Death, in the fecond book of Parudife 
Loft, had been better omitted in thefe celebrated 




A S the Epic Poem is univerfally allowed to pof- 
fefs the higheft rank among Poetical Works, 
it merits a particular difcuffion. Having treated 
of the nature of this Compofition, and the prin- 
cipal rules relating to it, I proceed to make fome 
obfervations on the mod diftinguifhed Epic Poems, 
Antient and Modern. 

Homeu claims, on every account, our firft atten- 
tion, as the Father not only of Epic Poetry, but, 
in fome meafure, of Poetry in general. Who- 
ever fits down to read Homer, mttft confider that 
he is going to read the mod antient book in the 
world, next to the Bible. Without making this 
reflection, he cannot enter into the fpirit, nor 
relifh the Compofition of the Author. Pie is not 
to look for the correct nefs, and elegance, of the 
Auguftan Age. He muft dived himfelf of our 
modern ideas of dignity and refinement, and trans- 
port his imagination aimoft three thoufand years 



back in the hiftory of mankind. What he is to L ^ L ? n T ' 
expect, is a picture of the antient world. He 
muft reckon upon finding characters and manners, 
that retain a confiderable tincture of the favage 
(late ; moral ideas, as yet, imperfectly formed j 
and the appetites and paffions of men brought 
under none of thofe reftraints, to which, in a more 
advanced ftate of Society, they are accuftomed ; 
but bodily ftrength, prized as one of the chief 
heroic endowments ; the preparing of a meal, and 
the appeafing of hunger, defcribcd as very inte- 
refting objects -, and the heroes boafting of them- 
felves openly, fcolding one another outrageoufly, 
and glorying, as we mould now think very inde- 
cently, over their fallen enemies. 

The opening of the Iliad pofTeffes none of that 
fort of dignity, which a Modern looks for in a 
great Epic Poem. It turns on no higher fubject, 
than the quarrel of two Chieftains about a female 
(lave. The Prieft of Apollo befeeches Agamem- 
non to reftore his daughter, who, in the plunder 
of a city, had fallen to Agamemnon's fhare of 
booty. He refufes. Apollo, at the prayer of his 
Prieft, fends a plague into the Grecian camp. 
The Augur, when confulted, declares, that there 
is no way of appeafing Apollo, but by reftoring 
the daughter of his Prieft. Agamemnon is en- 
raged at the Augur; profefies that he likes this 
flave better than his wife Clytemneftra ; but fince 
he muft reftore her in order to fave the army, 



l e c t. infifis to have another in her place : and pitches 

XLIII. r > r 

upon Brifeis, the flave of Achilles. Achilles, as 
was to be expected, kindles into rage at this de- 
mand ; reproaches him for his rapacity and info- 
lence, and, after giving him many hard names, 
folemnly fwears, that, if he is to be thus treated 
by the General, he will withdraw his troops, and 
affift the Grecians no more againft the Trojans. 
He withdraws accordingly. His mother, the God- 
defs Thetis, interefts Jupiter in his caufe; who, 
to revenge the wrong which Achilles had fuffered, 
takes part againft the Greeks, and fuffers them to 
fall into great and long diftrefs; until Achilles is 
pacified, and reconciliation brought about between 
him and Agamemnon. 

Such is the bafis of the whole action of the 
Iliad. Hence rife all thofe <f fpeciofa miracula," 
as Horace terms them, which nil that extraor- 
dinary Poem ; and which have had the power of 
interefting almoft all the nations of Europe, during 
every age, fince the days of Homer. The general 
admiration commanded by a poetical plan, fo very 
different from what any one would have formed in 
our times, ought not, upon reflection, to be matter 
of furprife. For, befides that a fertile genius can 
enrich and beautify any fubjecT: on which it is 
employed, ic is to be obferved, that antient man- 
ners, how much foever they contradict our prefent 
notions of dignity and refinement, afford never- 
thelefs materia 1 Poetry, Superior, in fomc 



refpects, to thofe which are furnifhed by a more L E c T - 
polifhed ftate of Society. They difcover human 
nature more open and undifguifed, without any of 
thofe ftudied forms of behaviour which now con- 
ceal men from one another. They give free fcope 
to the ftrongeft and moft impetuous emotions of 
the mind, which make a better figure in defcrip- 
tion, than calm and temperate feelings. They 
fhow us our native prejudices, appetites, and de- 
fires, exerting themfelves without controul. From 
this ftate of manners, joined with the advantage 
of that ftrong and expreffive Style, which, as I 
formerly obferved, commonly diftinguifhes the 
Compofitions of early ages, we have ground to 
look for more of the boldnefs, eafe, and freedom 
of native genius, in Compofitions of fuch a period, 
than in thofe of more civilized times. And, ac- 
cordingly, the two great characters of the Homeric 
Poetry are, Fire and Simplicity. Let us now 
proceed to make fome more particular obierva- 
tions on the Iliad, under the three heads of the 
Subject and Action, the Characlers, and Narra- 
tion of the Poet. 

The Subject of the Iliad muff unqueftionably 
be admitted to be, in the main, happily chofen. 
In the days of Homer, no objecl: could be more 
fplendid and dignified than the Trojan war. So 
great a confederacy of the Grecian States, under 
one leader ; and the ten years fiege which they 
carried on againft Troy, muft have fpread far 
abroad die renown of many military exploits, and 



L ,^ r f TT T- interefted all Greece in the traditions concerning the 
Heroes who had molt eminently fignalized them- 
felves. Upon thefe traditions, Homer grounded 
his Poem ; and though he lived, as is generally 
believed, only two or three centuries after the 
Trojan war, yet, through the want of written 
records, tradition muft, by his time, have fallen 
into the degree of obfcurity moft proper for 
Poetry ; and have left him at full liberty to mix as 
much fable as he plealed, with the remains of 
true hiftory. He has not chofen, for his fubject, 
the whole Trojan war ; but, with great judgment, 
he has felected one part of it, the quarrel be- 
twixt Achilles and Agamemnon, and the events to 
which that quarrel gave rife; which, though they 
take up forty- feven days only, yet include the moft 
interefting, and moft critical period of the war. 
By this management, he has given greater unity to 
what would have otherwife been an unconnected 
hiftory of battles. He has gained one Hero, or 
principal character, Achilles, who reigns through- 
out the work ; and he has fhown the pernicious 
effect of difcord among confederated princes. At 
the fame time, I admit that Homer is lefs for- 
tunate in his fubjecl: than Virgil. The plan of the 
iEneid includes a greater compafs, and a more 
agreeable diverfity of events ; whereas the Piad is 
almoft entirely filled with battles. 

The praife of high invention has in every age 
been given to Homer, with the greateft reafon. 
The prodigious number of incidents, of fpeectoes, 



of characters divine and human, with which he L ^ L y lY T ' 
abounds j the furprifing variety with which he has 
diverfified his battles, in the wounds and deaths, 
and little hiftory-pieces of almoft all the perfons 
flain, discover an invention next to boundlefs. But 
the praife of judgment is, in my opinion, no lefs 
due to Homer, than that of invention. His ftory 
is all along conducted with great art. He rifes 
upon us gradually ; his Heroes are brought out, 
one after another, to be objects of our attention. 
The diftrefs thickens, as the Poem advances ; and 
every thing is (o contrived as to aggrandize Achil- 
les, and to render him, as the Poet intended he 
fhouid be, the capital figure. 

But that wherein Homer excels all Writers is 
the charaeteriftical part. Here, he is without a 
rival. His lively and Ipirked exhibition of cha- 
racters, is, in a great meafure, owing to his being 
fo dramatic a Writer, abounding every where with 
dialogue and converfation. There is much more 
dialogue in Homer than in Virgil; or, indeed, 
than in any other Poet. What Virgil informs us 
of by two words of Narration, Homer brings 
about by a Speech. We may obferve here, that 
this method of Writing is more antient than the 
narrative manner. Of this we have a clear proof 
in the Books of the Old Teftament, which, inftead 
of Narration, abound with Speeches, with anfwers 
and replies, upon the mod familiar fubjeCts. 
Thus, in the Book of Genefis : <c Jofeph faid 

" unto 


L E C T. 

<c unto his brethren, Whence come ye ? and they 
" anfwered, From the land of Canaan we come to 
" buy food. And Jofeph faid, Ye are fpies ; to 
" fee the nakednefs of the land are ye come. 
t£ And they faid unto him, Nay, my Lord, but 
" to buy food are thy fervants come ; we are all 
" one man's fons, we are true men, thy fervants 
* c are no fpies. And he faid unto them, Nay, 
u but to fee the nakednefs of the land ye are 
<r come. And they faid, Thy fervants are twelve 
"' brethren, the fons of one man in the land of 
" Canaan; and behold the youngeft is this day 
<f with our father; and one is not. And Jofeph 
tc faid unto them, This it is that I fpake unto you, 
" faying ye are fpies. Hereby ye fhall be proved ; 
" by the life of Pharoah, ye fhall not go forth, 
(C except your youngeft brother come hither," &c. 
Genefis, xlii. y g — 15. Such a Style as this, is 
the moft fimple and artlefs form of Writing, and 
muft, therefore, undoubtedly have been the moft 
antient. It is copying directly from nature; giv- 
ing a plain rehearfal of what paffed, or was fup- 
pofed to pafs, in converfation between the perfons 
of whom the Author treats. In progrefs of time, 
when the Art of Writing was more ftudied, it was 
thought more elegant to comprefs the fubftance 
of converfation into fhort diftinct narrative, made 
by the Poet or Hiftorian in his own perfon ; and 
to refer ve direct fpeeches for folemn occaiions 



The Ancient Dramatic method which Homer l e c t. 

r 1 11 , • t r XL1II. 

pradtifed, has fome aavantages, balanced with fome 
defects. It renders Compofition more natural and 
animated, and more expreffive of manners and 
characters; but withal lefs grave and majeftic, and 
ibmetimes tirefome. Homer, it muft be admitted, 
has carried his propenfity to the making of Speeches 
too far; and if he be tedious any where, it is in 
thefe; fome of them trifling, and fome of them 
plainly unfeafonable. Together with the Greek 
vivacity, he leaves upon our mind?, fome impref- 
fion of the Greek loquacity alfo. His Speeches, 
however, are upon the whole charaeteriitic and 
lively; and to them we owe, in a great mea- 
fure, that admirable difplay which he has given of 
human nature. Every one who reads him, be- 
comes familiarly and intimately acquainted with 
his Heroes. We feem to have lived among them, 
and to have converfed with them. Not only has 
he purfued the fingle virtue of courage, through 
all its different forms and features, in his different 
warriors; but fome more delicate characters, into 
which courage either enters not at all, or but for an 
inconfiderable part, he has drawn with fingular art. 

How finely, for inftance, has he painted the 
character of Helen, fo as, notwithstanding her frailty 
and her crimes, to prevent her from being an 
odious obiect! The admiration with which the old 
generals behold her, in the Third Book, when 
fhe is coming towards them, prefents her .to us 



with much dignity. Her veiling herfelf and (bed- 
ding tears, her confufion in the prefence of Priam, 
her grief and felf-accufations at the fight of Mene- 
laus, her upbraiding Paris for his cowardice, and 
at the fame time, her returning fondnefs for him, 
exhibit the mod ftriking features of that mixed fe- 
male character, which we partly condemn, and 
partly pity. Homer never introduces her, with- 
out making her fay fomerhing to move our com- 
panion; while, at the fame time, he takes care to 
contraft her character with that of a virtuous ma- 
tron, in the chafte and tender Andromache. 

Paris himfelf, the author of all the mifchief, 
is characterifed with the utmoft propriety. He is, 
as we mould expect him, a mixture of gallantry 
and effeminacy. He retreats from Menelaus, on 
his firft appearance; but, immediately afterwards, 
enters into fingle combat with him. He is a great 
mafter of civility, remarkably courteous in his 
fpeeches; and receives all the reproofs of his 
brother He£tor with modefty and deference. He 
is defcribed as a perfon of elegance and tafte. 
He was the Architect of his own Palace. He is, 
in the Sixth Book, found by Hector, burnifhing 
and drefnng up his armour; and iffues forth to 
battle with a peculiar gaiety and orientation of ap- 
pearance, which is illuftrated by one of the fineft 
comparifons in all the Iliad, that of the horfe 
prancing to the river. 



Homer has been blamed for making his hero l e c 

Achilles of too brutal and inamiable a character. 

But I am inclined to think, that injuftice is com- 
monly done to Achilles, upon the credit of two 
lines of Horace, who has certainly overloaded 
his character: 

Impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer, 

Jura negat fibi nataj nihil non arrogat armis. 

Achilles is pafiionate indeed, to a great de- 
gree; but he is far from being a contemner of laws 
and juftice. In the conteft with Agamemnon, 
though he carries it on with too much heat, yet 
he has reafon on his fide. He was notorioufly 
wronged; but he fubmits; and refigns Brifeis 
peaceably, when the heralds come to demand her; 
only, be will fight no longer under the command 
of a leader who had affronted him. Befides his 
wonderful bravery and contempt of death, he 
has feveral other qualities of a Hero, He is open 
and fincere. He loves his fubjects, and refpects 
the Gods. He is diftinguifhed by ftrong friend- 
fhips and attachments j he is, throughout, high- 
fpirited, gallant, and honourable; and allowing 
for a degree of ferocity which belonged to the 
times, and enters into the characters of moil of 
Homer's Heroes, he is, upon the whole, abun- 
dantly fitted to raife high admiration, though not 
pure efteem. 

Under the head of Characters, Homer's Gods, 

or his Machinery, according to the critical term, 

vol. in, q_ come 


L xLni T come unc ^ er confideration. The Gods make a 
great figure in the Iliad; much greater indeed than 
they do in the iEneid, or in any other Epic Poem ; 
and hence Homer has become the ftandard of Poetic 
Theology. Concerning Machinery in general, I 
delivered my fentiments in the former Lecture. 
Concerning Homer's Machinery, in particular, 
we muft obferve, that it was not his own inven- 
tion. Like every other good Poet, he unqueftion- 
ably followed the traditions of his country. The 
age of the Trojan war approached to the age of. 
the Gods, and Demi-gods, in Greece. Several of 
the Heroes concerned in that war, were reputed to 
be the children of thefe Gods. Of courfe, the tra- 
ditionary tales relating to them, and to the ex- 
ploits of that age, were blended with the Fables 
of the Deities. Thefe popular legends Homer 
very properly adopted ; though it is perfectly ab- 
furd to infer from this, that therefore Poets arifing 
in fucceeding ages, and writing on quite different 
fubjects, are obliged to follow the fame fyftem of 

In the hands of Homer, it produces, on the whole, 
a noble effect; it is always gay and amufing; 
often, lofty and magnificent. It introduces into 
his Poem a great number of perfonages, almoft 
as much diftinguifhed by characters as his human 
actors. It diverfifies his battles greatly by the in- 
tervention of the Gods; and by frequently fliift- 
ing the fcene from earth to heaven, it gives an 
agreeable relief to the mind, in the midft of Co 



much blood and {laughter. Homer's Gods, it L E c T * 
muft be confeflfed, though they be always lively and 
animated figures, yet fometimes want dignity. 
The conjugal contentions between Juno and Ju- 
piter, with which he entertains us, and the inde- 
cent fquabbles he defcribes among the inferior 
Deities, according as they take different fides with 
the contending parties, would be very improper 
models for any modern Poet to imitate. In apology 
for Homer, however, it. muft be remembered, that 
according to the Fables of thofe days, the Gods 
are but one remove above the condition of men. 
They have all the human paffions. They drink 
and feaft, and are vulnerable like men; they have 
children and kinfmen, in the oppofite armies; 
and except that they are immortal, that they have 
houfes on the top of Olympus, and winged cha- 
riots, in which they are often flying down to earth, 
and then re-afcending, in order to feaft on nectar 
and ambrofia; they are in truth no higher beings 
than the human Heroes, and therefore very fit to 
take part in their contentions. At the fame time, 
though Homer fo frequently degrades his divinities, 
yet he knows how to make them appear, in fome 
conjunctures, with the moft awful majefty. Jupi- 
ter, the Father of Gods and men, is for the moft 
part introduced with great dignity; and feveral of 
the moft fublime conceptions in the Iliad, are 
founded on the appearances of Neptune, Minerva, 
and Apollo, on great occafions. 

0..2 With 


With regard to Homer's Style and manner of 
Writing, it is eafy, natural, and in the higheft de- 
gree animated. It will be admired by fuch only as 
relifh antient fimplicity, and can make allowance for 
certain negligences and repetitions, which greater 
refinement in the Art of Writing has taught 
fucceeding, though far inferior, Poets to avoid. 
For Homer is the mod fimple in his Style of all 
the great Poets, and refembles moft the Style of 
the poetical parts of the Old Teftament. They 
can have no conception of his manner, who are ac- 
quainted with him in Mr. Pope's Tranflation only. 
An excellent poetical performance that Tranflation 
is, and faithful in the main to the Original. In 
fome places, it may be thought to have even im- 
proved Homer. It has certainly foftened fome of 
his rudeneffes, and added delicacy and grace to 
fome of his fentiments. But withal, it is no other 
than Homer modernifed. In the midft of the 
elegance and luxuriancy of Mr. Pope's language, 
we lofe fight of the old Bard's fimplicity. I know 
indeed no Author, to whom it is more difficult 
to do juftice in a Tranflation, than Homer. As 
the plainnefs of his diction, were it literally ren- 
dered, would often appear flat in any modern lan- 
guage j fo in the midlt of that plainnefs, and not 
a little heightened by it, there are every where 
breaking forth upon us flaflies of native fire, of 
fublimity and beauty, which hardly any language, 
except his own, could preferve. His verification 
has been univerlally acknowledged to he uncom- 


monly melodious ; and to carry, beyond that of L *- jj T * 
any Poet, a refemblance in the found to the fenfe 
and meaning. 

In Narration, Homer is, at all times, remark- 
ably concife, which renders him lively and agree- 
able ; though in his fpeeches, as I have before ad- 
mitted, fometimes tedious. He is every where 
defcriptive ; and defcriptive by means of thofe well- 
chofen particulars, which form the excellency of 
defcription. Virgil gives us the nod of Jupiter 
with great magnificence: 

Annuit ; et totum nutu tremefecit Olympum. 

But Homer, in defcribing the fame thing, gives 
us the fable eye-brows of Jupiter bent, and his am- 
brofial curls fhaken, at the moment when he gives 
the nod ; and thereby renders the figure more na- 
tural and lively. Whenever he feeks to draw our 
attention to fome intereiting object, he particula- 
tes it fo happily, as to paint it in a manner to our 
fight. The fhot of Pandarus' arrow, which broke 
the truce between the two armies, as related in the 
Fourth Book, may be given for an inftance; and 
above all, the admirable interview of Hector with 
Andromache, in the Sixth Book; where all the 
circumftances of conjugal and parental tendernefs, 
the child affrighted with the view of his Father's 
Helmet and Creft, and clinging to the nurfej Hec- 
tor putting off his Helmet, taking the child into 
his arms, and offering up a prayer for him to the 
0^3 Gods; 


Gods; Andromache receiving back the child with 
a (mile of pleafure, and, at the fame inftant, burft- 
ing into tears, dxxgvos* y£~Aa,<Toi<roi, as it is finely ex- 
prefTed in the original, form the mod natural and 
affecting picture that can polTibly be imagined. 

In the defcription of Battles, Homer particularly 
excels. He works up the hurry, the terror, and 
confufion of them in fo mafterly a manner, as to 
place the Reader in the .very midft of the engage- 
ment. It is here, that the fire of his genius is mod 
highly difplayed ; infomuch, that Virgil's Battles, 
and indeed thole of mod other Poets, are cold and 
inanimated in companion of Homer's. 

With regard to Similies, no Poet abounds fo 
much with them. Several of them are beyond 
doubt extremely beautiful: fuch as thofe, of the 
fires in the Trojan camp compared to the Moon 
and Stars by night; Paris going forth to Battle, to 
the war-horfe prancing to the river; and Euphor- 
bus {lain, to the flowering fhrub cut down by a 
fudden blaft: all which are among the fined poeti- 
cal paiTages that are any where to be found. I am 
not, however, of opinion that Homer's Compan- 
ions, taken in general, are his greated beauties. 
They come too thick upon us; and often interrupt 
the train of his narration or defcription. The re- 
femblancc on which they are founded, is fometimes 
not clear; and the objects whence they are taken, 
are too uniform. His Lions, Bulls, Eagles, and 
p, herds 


herds of Sheep, recur too frequently ; and the al- L | LI C II T> 
lufions in ibme of his Similies, even after the al- • — ^~. J 
lowances that are to be made for antient manners, 
mult be admitted to be debating*. 

My obfervations, hitherto, have been made upon 
the Iliad only. It is neceffary to take fome notice 
of the Odyffey alfo. Longinus's criticifm upon it 

* The fevereft critic upon Homer in modem times, M. la 
Motte, admits all that his admirers urge for the fuperiorky of 
his genius and talents as a Poet: " C'etoit un genie naturelle- 
" ment Poetique, ami des Fables & des merveilieux, et porte en 
" general a l'imitation, foit des objets de la nature, foit des fen- 
'•' timens et des actions des hommes. II avoit l'efprit vafte et 
*« fecond ; plus eleve que dcHcat, plus naturel qu'ingenieux, et 
** plus amoureux ds Pabondance que du choix. — II a faifi, par 
" une fuperiorite de gout, les premieres idees de Feloquence 
" dans toutes les genres ; il a parle la langage des toutes les paf* - 
" lions ; et il a du moins ouvert aux ecrivains qui doivent le fuivre 
'* une infinite de routes, qu'il ne reftoit plus qu'aapplanir. II y a 
** apparence que en quelques temps qu' Homere eiit vecu, ileut 
" e:e, du moins, le plus grand Poete de fon pais : et a ne le 
" prendre que dans ce fens, on peut dire, qu'il eft ie maitre de 
" ceux memes qui Pont furpafle." — Difcours fur Homere. Oeu- 
vres de la Motte, Tome 2de. After thefe high praifes of the 
Author, he indeed endeavours to bring the merit of the Jliad 
very low. But his principal objections turn on the debafing 
ideas which are there given of the Gods, the grofs characters 
and manners of the Heroes, and the imperfect morality of the 
fentiments ; which, as Voltaire obferves, is like accufing a 
painter for having drawn his figures in the dref> of the times. 
Homer painted his Gods, fuch as popular tradition then repre- 
fented them; and defcribed fuch characters and fentiments 
he found among thofe with whom he lived. 

<L4 >s 


is not without foundation, that Homer may in this 
Poem be compared to the fetting fun, whofe gran- 
deur ftill remains, without the heat of his meridian 
beams. It wants the vigour and fublimity of the 
Iliad ; yet, at the fame time, poflefles fo many 
beauties, as to be juftly entitled to high praife. It 
is a very amufing Poem, and has much greater 
variety than the Iliad j it contains many interefting 
ftories, and beautiful defcriptions. We fee every 
where the fame defcriptive and dramatic genius, 
and the fame fertility of invention that appears in 
the other work. It defcends indeed from the dig- 
nity of Gods, and Heroes, and warlike achieve- 
ments j but in recompence, we have more pleafing 
pictures of antient manners. Inftead of that fero- 
city which reigns in the Iliad, the QdyfTey prefents 
us with the moft amiable images of hofpitality and 
humanity; entertains us with many a wonderful ad- 
venture, and many a landfcape of nature; and in- 
ftructs us by a conftant vein of morality and virtue^ 
which runs through the Poem. 

At the fame time, there are fome defects which 
mud be acknowledged in the Odyflfey. Many 
fcenes in it fall below the majefty which we natu- 
rally expect in an Epic Poem. The laft Twelve 
Books, after Ulyfles is landed in Ithaca, are, in 
feveral parts, tedious and languid ; and though 
the difcovery, which Ulyfles makes of himfelf 
to his Nurfe Euryclea, and his interview with 
Penelope before ihe knows him, in the Nine- 


teenth Book, are tender and affecting, yet the L E c T - 

. ° J XLIII. 

Poet does not feem happy in the great anagnorifis, 
or the difcovery of UlyfTes to Penelope. She is 
too cautious, and diftruftful, and we are difap- 
pointed of the iurprife of joy, which we expected 
on that high occafion. 

After having faid fo much of the Father of 
Epic Poetry, it is now time to proceed to Virgil, 
who has a character clearly marked, and quite 
diftinct from that of Homer. As the diftinguifh- 
ing excellencies of the Iliad are, Simplicity and 
Fire; thofe of the iEneid are, Elegance and Ten- 
dernefs. Virgil is, beyond doubt, lefs animated 
and lefs fublime than Homer ; but to counter- 
balance this, he has fewer negligencies, greater 
variety, and fupports more of a correct and 
regular dignity, throughout his work. 

When we begin to read the Iliad, we find 
ourfelves in the region of the molt remote, and 
even unrefined antiquity. When we open the 
iEneid, we difcover all the correctnefs, and the 
improvements, of the Auguftan age. We meet 
with no contentions of heroes about a female 
fiave; no violent fcolding, nor abufive language, 
but the poem opens with the utmoft magnifi- 
cence ; with Juno, forming defigns for preventing 
/Eneas's eftablifhment in Italy, and iEneas him- 
fclf, prefented to us with all his fleet in the middle 
of a ftorm, which is defcribed in the higheft Style 
qf Poetry. 



The fubjedt of the /Eneid is extremely happy $ 
flill more fo, in my opinion, than either of Ho- 
mer's Foems. As nothing could be more noble, 
nor carry more of Epic dignity, fo nothing could 
be more flattering and interefting to the Roman 
people, than Virgil's deriving the origin of their 
flate from fo famous a hero as /Eneas. The ob- 
ject was fplendid in itfelf -, it gave the Poet a 
theme, taken from the antient traditionary hiftory 
of his own country j it allowed him to conned his 
fubject with Homer's ftories, and to adopt ail his 
mythology ; it afforded him the opportunity of 
frequently glancing at all the future great exploits 
of the Romans, and of deicribing Italy, and the 
very territory of Rome, in its antient and fabulous 
ftate. The eftablifhment of /Eneas conftantly 
traverfed by Juno, leads to a great diverfity of 
events, of voyages, and wars ; and furniihes a 
proper intermixture of the incidents of peace with 
martial exploits. Upon the whole, I believe, 
there is no where to be found fo complete a model 
of an Epic Fable, or Story, as Virgil's /Eneid. 
I fee no foundation for the opinion, entertained by 
ibme Critics, that the vEneid is to be confidered 
as an Allegorical Poem, which carries a conftanc 
reference to the character and reign of .Auguftus 
Caefar - t or, that Virgil's main defign in compo- 
fing the JEneid, was to reconcile the Romans to 
the government of that Prince, who is fuppofed 
to be fhadowed out under the character of /Eneas. 
Virgil, indeed, like the other Poets of that age, 
takes every opportunity which his fubject affords 



him, of paying court to Auguflus *. But, to L E c T < 
imagine that he carried a political plan in his view, 
through the whole Poem, appears to me no more 
than a fanciful refinement. He had fufficient 
motives, as a Poet, to determine him to the 
choice of his fubject, from its being, in itfelrj 
both great and pleafmg ; from its being fuited to 
his genius, and its being attended with the pecu- 
liar advantages, which I mentioned above, for 
the full difplay of poetical talents. 

Unity of action is perfectly preferved -, as, 
from beginning to end, one main object is always 
kept in view, the fettiement of TEneas in Italy, 
by the order of the Gods. As the (lory com- 
prehends the tranfactions of fever al years, part of 
the tranfactions are very properly thrown into a 
recital made by the Hero. The Epifodes are 
linked with fufficient connection to the main fub- 
ject j and the Nodus, or Intrigue of the Poem, 
is, according to the plan of ancient machinery, 
happily formed. The wrath of Juno, who oppofes 
herfelf to the Trojan letdement in Italy, gives 
rife to all the difficulties which obftruct iEneas's 
undertaking, and connects the human with the 
celeftiai operations, throughout the whole work. 
Hence arife the tempeft which throws iEneas 

* As particu'arly in that noted paiTage of the 6th book, 

Hie vir, hie eft, tibi quern promitti faspius audis, &c. 



L xiAi) T ' u P on ^ e ^ 10re °^ Africa ; the pafiion of Dido, 
who endeavours to detain him at Carthage; and 
the efforts of Turnus, who oppofes him in war. 
Till, at lad, upon a compofition made with Ju- 
piter, that the Trojan name mail be for ever funk 
in the Latin, Juno foregoes her refentment, and 
the Hero becomes victorious. 

In thefe main points, Virgil has conducted his 
work with great propriety, and fhown his art and 
judgment. But the admiration due to fo eminent 
2 Poet, mull not prevent us from remarking fome 
other particulars in which he has failed. Firft, 
there are fcarce any characters marked in the 
iEneid. In this refpect, it is infipid, when com- 
pared to the Iliad, which is full of characters and 
life. Achates, and Cloanthus, and Gyas, and 
the reft of the Trojan heroes, who accompanied 
JEneas into Italy, are fo many undiitinguiflied 
figures, who are in no way made known to us, 
either by any fentiments which they utter, or any 
memorable exploits which they perform. Even 
^Eneas himfelf is not a very interefting Hero. 
He is defcribed, indeed, as pious and brave ; 
but his character is not marked with any of thofe 
ftrokes that touch the heart; it is a fort of cold 
and tame character ; and, throughout his beha- 
viour to Dido, in the fourth book, efpecially in 
the fpeech which he makes after fhe fufpecled his 
intention of leaving her, there appears a certain 
hardnefs, and want of relenting, which is far 



from rendering him amiable*. Dido's own cha- 
racter is by much the bed fupported, in the 
whole iEneid. The warmth of her paffions, the 
keennefs of her indignation and refentment, and 
the violence of her whole character, exhibit a 
figure greatly more animated than any other which 
Virgil has drawn. 


Besides this defect of character in the ^Eneid, 
the diftribution and management of the fubject are, 
in fome refpects, exceptionable. The JEneid, it 
is true, mull be confidered with the indulgence due 
to a work not thoroughly completed. The fix laft 
books are faid not to have received the finifhing 
hand of the Author; and for this reafon, he order- 
ed, by his will, the iEneid to be committed to the 
flames. But though this may account for incorrect- 
nefs of execution, it does not apologize for a fall- 
ing off in the fubject, which feems to take place in 
the latter part of the work. The wars with the 
Latins are inferior, in point of dignity, to the more 
interesting objects which had before been prefented 
to us, in the destruction of Troy, the intrigue with 
Dido, and the defcent into Hell. And in thofe 
Italian wars, there is, perhaps, a more material 
fault ftill, in the condudt of the (rory. The Reader, 
as Voltaire has obferved, is tempted to take part 
with Turnus againft iEneas. Turnus, a brave 

• Num fletu ingemuit noftro ? Num lumina flexit ? 

Num lachrymas vi&us dedit* Aut miferatus amantem eft? 

JEn. iv. 368. 


L X E J t. young prince, in love with Lavinia, his near rela- 
<■■ -y ~> tion, is deftined for her by general confent, and 
highly favoured by her mother. Lavinia herfelf 
difcovers no reluctance to the match : when there 
arrives a (lr anger, a fugitive from a diftant region, 
who had never feen her, and who founding a claim 
to an eftablifhment in Italy upon oracles and pro- 
phecies, embroils the country in war, kills the lover 
of Lavinia, and proves the occafion of her mother's 
death. Such a plan is not fortunately laid, for dif- 
pofing us to be favourable to the Hero of the 
Poem; and the defect might have been eafily re- 
medied, by the Poet's making /Eneas, inftead of 
diftrefling Lavinia, deliver her from the perfecution 
of fome rival who was odious to her, and to the 
whole country. 

But, notwithstanding thefe defects, which it was 
neceffary to remark, Virgil poflfeTes beauties which 
have juftly drawn the admiration of ages, and which, 
to this day, hold the balance in equilibrium be- 
tween his fame and that of Homer. The princi- 
pal and diftinguifhing excellency of Virgil, and 
which, in my opinion, he poffeffes beyond all Poets, 
is Tendernefs. Nature had endowed him with 
exquifite fenfibility; he felt every affecting circum- 
ftance in the fcenes he defcribes ; and, by a fingle 
ftroke, he knows how to reach the heart. This, 
in an Epic Poem, is the merit next to fublimity; 
and puts it in an Author's power to render his 
Compofition extremely interefting to all Readers. 



- Thz chief beauty, of this kind, in the Iliad, is, L xun7* 
the interview of Heclor with Andromache. But 
in the /Eneid, there are many fuch. The fecond 
book is one of the greateft matter-pieces that ever 
was executed by any hand ; and Virgil feems to 
have put forth there the whole ftrength of his 
genius, as the fubjedt afforded a variety of fcenes, 
both of the awful and tender kind. The images 
of horror, prefented by a city burned and facked 
in the night, are finely mixed with pathetic and af- 
fecting incidents. Nothing, in any Poet, is more 
beautifully defcribed than the death of old Priam; 
and the family-pieces of iEneid, Anchifes, and 
Creufa, are as tender as can be conceived. In 
many paflages of the ^Eneid, the fame pathetic 
fpirit mines ; and they have been always the fa- 
vourite paffages in that work. The fourth book, 
for inftance, relating the unhappy pafiion and death 
of Dido, has been always mod juftly admired, and 
abounds with beauties of the higheft kind. The 
interview of iEneas with Andromache and Helenus, 
in the third book; the Epifodes of Pallas and 
Evander, of Nifus and Euryalus, of Laufus and 
Mezentius, in the Italian wars, are all ftriking in- 
ftances of the Poet's power of raifing the tender 
emotions. For we muft obferve, that though the 
i^Eneid be an' unequal Poem, and, in fome places, 
languid, yet there are beauties fcattered through it 
all; and not a few, even in the laft fix books. The 
beft and moft flnifhed books, upon the whole, are 
the firft, the fecond, the fourth, the fixth, the fe- 
venth, the eighth, and the twelfth. 



Virgil's battles are far inferior to Homer's, iri 
point of fire and fublimity : but there is one impor- 
tant Epifode, the Defcent into Hell, in which he 
has outdone Homer in the OdyiTey, by many de- 
grees. There is nothing in all antiquity equal, in 
its kind, to the fixth book of the JEneid. The 
fcenery, and the objects, are great and (Inking ; 
and fill the mind with that folemn awe, which was 
to be expected from a view of the invifible world. 
There runs through the whole defcription, a certain 
philofophical fublimej which Virgil's Platonic 
Genius, and the enlarged ideas of the Auguftan 
age, enabled him to fupport with a degree of ma- 
jelly, far beyond what the rude ideas of Homer's 
age fuffered him to attain. With regard to the 
fweetnefs and beauty of Virgil's numbers, through- 
out his whole works, they are fo well known, that 
it were needlefs to enlarge in the praife of them. 

Upon the whole, as to the comparative merit of 
thefe two great princes of Epic Poetry, Homer and 
Virgil i the former mull, undoubtedly, be admit- 
ted to be the greater Genius j the latter, to be the 
more correct Writer. Homer was an original 
in his art, and difcovers both the beauties and the 
defects which are to be expected in an original 
Author, compared with thofe who fucceed him j 
more boldnefs, more nature and eafe, more fubli- 
mity and force ; but greater irregularities and neg- 
ligencies in Compofition. Virgil has, all along, 
kept his eye upon Homer; in many places, he has 
not fo much imitated, as he has literally tranflated 
13 him. 


him. The defcription of the Storm, for inftance, L E c T * 
in the firfl: iEneid, and iEneas's Speech upon that K - / 
occafion, are tranflations from the fifth book of the 
OdyfTey ; not to mention almoft all the fimilies of 
Virgil, which are no other than copies of thofe of 
Homer. The pre-eminence in invention, there- 
fore, muft, beyond doubt, be afcribed to Homer. 
As to the pre-eminence in judgment, though many 
Critics are difpofed to give it to Virgil, yet, in my 
opinion, it hangs doubtful. In Homer, we difcern 
all the Greek vivacity; in Virgil, all the Roman 
flatelinefs. Homer's imagination is by much the 
mod rich and copious ; Virgil's the mod chafte 
and correct. The ftrength of the former lies, in 
his power of warming the fancy j that of the latter, 
in his power of touching the heart. Homer's ftyle 
is more fimple and animated ; Virgil's, more ele- 
gant and uniform. The firft has, on many occa- 
fions, a fublimity to which the latter never attains; 
but the latter, in return, never finks below a certain 
degree of Epic dignity, which cannot fo clearly be 
pronounced of the former. Not, however, to de- 
tract from the admiration due to both thefe great 
Poets, mod of Homer's defects may reafonably be 
imputed, not to his genius, but to the manners of 
the age in which he lived; and for the feeble paf- 
fages of the iEneid, this excufe ought to be ad- 
mitted, that the iEneid was left an unfinifhed 







A f ter Homer and Virgil, the next great Epic 
**• Poet of ancient times, who prefents himfelf, 
is Lucan. He is a Poet who deferves our atten- 
tion, on account of a very peculiar mixture of great 
beauties, with great faults. Though his Pharfalia 
difcover too little invention, and be conducted in 
too hiftorical a manner, to be accounted a perfectly 
regular Epic Poem, yet it were the mere fquea- 
mifhnefs of Criticifm, to exclude it from the Epic 
clafs. The boundaries, as I formerly remarked, 
are far from being afcertained by any fuch precife 
limit, that we mud: refufe the Epic name to a Poem, 
which treats of great and heroic adventures, becaufe 
it is not exactly conformable to the plans of Homer 
and Virgil. The fubject of the Pharfalia carries, 
undoubtedly, all the Epic Grandeur and Dignity; 
neither does it want unity of object, viz. the 
i Triumph 

L E C T. 



Triumph of Csfar over the Roman Liberty. As 
it (lands at prefent, it is, indeed, brought to no 
proper clofe. But either time has deprived us of 
the laft books, or it has been left by the Author an 
incomplete work. 

Though Lucan's fubject be abundantly heroic, 
yet I cannot reckon him happy in the choice of it. 
It has two defects. The one is, that civil wars, 
efpecially when as fierce and cruel as thofe of the 
Romans, prefent too many mocking objects to be fit 
for Epic Poetry, and give odious and difgufting 
views of human nature. Gallant and honourable 
atchievements furnifh a more proper theme for the 
Epic Mufe. But Lucan's Genius, it muft be con- 
ferred, feems to delight in favage fcenesj he dwells 
upon them too much* and, not content with thofe 
which his fubject naturally furnimed, he goes out 
of his way to introduce a long Epifode of Marius 
and Sylla's profcriptions, which abounds with all 
the forms of atrocious cruelty. 

The other defect of Lucan's fubjeft is, its being 
too near the times in which he lived. This is a 
circumftance, as I obferved in a former Lecture, 
always unfortunate for a Poet j as it deprives him 
of the afliftance of fiction and machinery j and 
thereby renders his work lefs fplendid and amufing, 
Lucan has fubmitted to this difadvantage of his 
fubjectj and in doing fo, has acted with more pro- 
priety, than if he had made an unfeafonable at- 
R 2 tempt 


tempt to embellifli it with machinery; for the fables 
of the Gods would have made a very unnatural 
mixture with the exploits of Casfar and Pompey ; 
and inftead of raifing, would have diminifhed the 
dignity of fuch recent and well-known fads. 

With regard to characters, Lucan draws them 
with fpirit and with force. But, though Pompey 
be his profeffed Hero, he does not fucceed in in- 
terefting us much in his favour. Pompey is not 
made to poflefs any high diftinction, either for mag- 
nanimity in fentiment, or bravery in action; but, 
on the contrary, is always eclipfed by the fuperior 
abilities of Cnsfar. Cato is, in truth, Lucan's fa- 
vourite character, and wherever he introduces him, 
he appears to rife above himfelf. Some of the no- 
bleft, and molt confpicuous pafTages in the work, 
are fuch as relate to Cato ; either fpeeches put into 
his mouth, or defcriptions of his behaviour. His 
fpeech, in particular, to Labienus, who urged him 
to enquire at the Oracle of Jupiter Ammon, con- 
cerning the iflue of the war [book ix. 564], de- 
ferves to. be remarked, as equal, for Moral Subli- 
mity, to any thing that is to be found in all anti- 

In the conduct of the ftory, our Author has at- 
tached himfelf too much to chronological order. 
This renders the thread of his narration broken and 
interrupted, and makes him hurry us too often from 
place to place. He is too digreffive alfo; fre- 
3 quently 


quently turning afide from his fubject, to give us, 
fometimes, geographical defcriptions of a country; 
fometimes, philofophical difquifitions concerning 
natural objects; as, concerning the African Ser- 
pents in the ninth book, and the fources of the 
Nile in the tenth. 

There are, in the Pharfalia, feveral very poe- 
tical and fpirited defcriptions. But the Author's 
chief flrength does not lie, either in Narration or 
Defcription. His Narration is often dry and harfh: 
his Defcriptions are often over- wrought, and em- 
ployed too upon difagreeable objects. His prin- 
cipal merit confifts in his fentiments, which are ge- 
nerally noble and (Inking, and exprefTed in that 
glowing and ardent manner, which peculiarly dif- 
tinguifhes him. Lucan is the mod philofophical, 
and the mod public-fpirited Poet, of all antiquity. 
He was the nephew of the famous Seneca, the Phi- 
lofopher; was himfelf a Stoic; and the fpirit of 
that Philofophy breathes throughout his Poem. We 
mud obferve too, that he is the only antient Epic 
Poet whom the fubject of his Poem really and 
deeply interefted. Lucan recounted no fiction. 
He was a Roman, and had felt all the direful ef- 
fects of the Roman civil wars, and of that fevere 
defpotifm which fucceeded the lofs of liberty. His 
high and bold fpirit made him enter deeply into 
this fubject, and kindle, on many occafions, into 
the moft real warmth. Hence, he abounds in ex- 
clamations and apoftrophes, which are almoft always 

* J well- 

L E C T, 


1 xliv T ' well-timed, and fupported with a vivacity and fire 
that do him no fmall honour. 

But it is the fate of this Poet, that his beauties 
can never be mentioned, without their fuggefting 
his blemifhes alio. As his principal excellency is 
a lively and glowing genius, which appears fome- 
times in his defcriptions, and very often in his fen- 
timents, his great defect in both is, want of mode- 
ration. He carries every thing to an extreme. 
He knows not where to flop. From an effort to 
aggrandife his objects, he becomes tumid and un- 
natural: and it frequently happens, that where the 
fecond line of one of his defcriptions is fublime, 
the third, in which he meant to rife ftill higher, is 
perfectly bombaft. Lucan lived in an age, when 
the Schools of the Reclaimers had begun to corrupt 
the Eloquence and Tafte of Rome. He was not 
free from the infection ; and too often, inftead of 
fhowing the genius of the Poet, betrays the fpirit 
of the Declaimer, 

On the whole, however, he is an Author of 
lively and original genius. His fentiments are fo 
high, and his nte, on occafions, fo great, as 
to atone for many of his defects j and paffages may 
be produced from him, which are inferior to none in 
any Poet whatever. The characters, for inftance, 
which he draws of Pompey and Csefar in the firft 
Book, are mafterly; and the comparifon of Pom- 
pey to the aged decaying oak^ is highly poetical ; 

r totus 


■ totus popularibus auris 

Impelli, plaufuque fui gaudere theatri ; 
Nee reparare novas vires, multumque priori 
Credere fortunx j flat magni nominis umbra. 
Qualis, frugifero quercus fublimis in agro, 
Exuvias veteres populi, facrataque geftans 
Dona ducum ; nee jam validis radicibus hxrens, 
Pondere fixa fuo eft ; nudofque per aera ramos 
Effundens, trunco, non frondibus, efficit umbram. 
At quamvis primo nutet cafura fub Euro, 
Et circum fylvae firmo fe robore tollant, 
Sola tamen colitur. Sed non in Caefare tantum 
Nomen erat, nee fama ducis ; fed nefcia virtus 
Stare loco ; folufque pudor non vincere bello j 
Acer et indomitus*.— — — L. I. 32, 



* With gifts and liberal bounty fought for fame. 
And lov'd to hear the vulgar fhout his name ; 
In his own theatre rejoie'd to fit, 
Amidft the noify praifes of the pit. 
Carelefs of future ills that might betide, 
No aid he fought to prop his falling fide, 
But on his former fortune much rely'd. 
Still feem'd he to poflefs, and fill his place; 
But flood the fhadow of what once he was. 
So, in the field with Ceres' bounty fpread, 
Uprears fome antient oak his rev'rend head : 
Chaplets, and facred gifts his boughs adorn, 
And fpoils of war by mighty heroes worn j 
But the firft vigour of his root now gone, 
He Hands dependant on his weight alone; 
All bare his naked branches are difplay'd, 
And with his leaflefs trunk he forms a {hade. 
Yet though the winds his ruin daily threat, 
As every blafl would heave him from his feat;/ 

R 4 Though 


But when we confider the whole execution of 
his Poem, we are obliged to pronounce, that his 
poetical fire was not under the government of either 
found judgment, or correct tafte. His genius had 
ftrength, but not tendernefs •, nothing of what 
might be called amoenity, or fweetnefs. In his 
Style, there is abundance of force; but a mixture 
of harfhnefs, and frequently of obfcurity, occa- 
fioned by hisdefire of exprelling himfelf in a point- 
ed and unufual manner. Compared with Virgil, 
he may be allowed to have more fire and higher 
fentiments, but in every thing elfe, falls infinitely 
below him, particularly in purity, elegance, and 

As Statius and Silius Italicus, though they be 
Poets of the Epic Clafs, are too inconfiderable 
for particular criticifm, I proceed next to TalTo, 
the moft diftinguifhed Epic Poet in Modern Ages. 

Though thoufand fairer trees the field fupplies, 
That rich in youthful verdure round him rife, 
Fix'd in his antient feat, he yields to none, 
And wears the honours of the grove alone. 
But Casfar's greatnefs, and his ftrength was more, 
Than pad renown and antiquated power ; 
'Twas not the fame of what he once had been, 
Or tales in old records or annals feen ; 
But 'twas a valour, reftlefs, unconfin'd, 
Which no fuccefs could fate, nor limits bind ; 
'Twas fhame, a foldier's fhame, untaught to yield, 
That blufh'd for nothing but an ill-fought field. 




His Jerusalem Delivered, was publimed in the L!C T - 
year 1574. It is a Poem regularly and ftriclly 
Epic, in its whole conftruftion; and adorned with 
all the beauties that belong to that fpecies of Com- 
pofition. The fubject is, the Recovery of Jerufa- 
lem from the Infidels, by the united powers of 
Chriftendom; which, in itfelf, and more efpecially 
according to the ideas of Taflb's age, was a 
fplendid, venerable, and heroic enterprife. The 
oppofition of the Chriftians to the Saracens, forms 
an interefting contraft. The fubject produces 
none of thofe fierce and fhocking fcenes of civil 
difcord, which hurt the mind in Lucan, but ex- 
hibits the efforts of zeal and bravery, infpired by 
an honourable object. The fhare which Religion 
poffeffes in the enterprife, both tends to render it 
more auguft, and opens a natural field for ma- 
chinery, and fublime defcription. The action too 
lies in a country, and at a period of time, fuffi- 
ciently remote to allow an intermixture of fabulous 
tradition and fiction with true Hiftory. 

In the conduct of the ftory, TafTo has mown a 
rich and fertile invention, which, in a Poet, is a 
capital quality. He is full of events; and thofe 
too abundantly various, and diverfified in their 
kind. He never allows us to be tired by mere war 
and fighting. He frequently fhifcs the fcene •, and, 
from camps and battles, tranfports us to more 
pleafing objects. Sometimes the folemnities of 
religion; fometimss the intrigues of love; at other 



L xliv T ' ^ mes » tne adventures of a journey, or even the in- 
cidents of paftoral life, relieve and entertain the 
Reader. At the fame time, the whole work is 
artfully connected, and while there is much variety 
in the parts, there is perfect unity in the plan. 
The recovery of Jerufalem is the object kept in 
view through the whole, and with it the Poem 
clofes. All the Epifodes, if we except that of 
Olindo and Sophronia, in the Second Book, on 
which I formerly paffed a cenfure, are fufficiently 
related to the main fubjecl: of the Poem. 

The Poem is enlivened with a variety of cha- 
racters, and thofe too both clearly marked and well 
fupported. Godfrey, the leader of the enterprife, 
prudent, moderate, brave; Tancred, amorous-, 
generous, and gallant, and well contrafted with 
the fierce and brutal Argantes; Rinaldo (who is 
properly the Hero of the Poem, and is in part 
copied after Homer's Achilles,) paffionate and 
refentful, feduced by the allurements of Armidaj 
but a perfonage, on the whole, of much zeal, ho- 
nour, and heroifm. The brave and high-minded 
Solyman, the tender Erminia, the artful and vio- 
lent Armida, the mafculine Clorinda, are all of 
them well drawn and animated figures. In the 
characteriftical part, TarTo is indeed remarkably 
diftinguiihed; he is, in this refpect, fuperior to 
Virgil j and yields to no Poet, except Homer. 

He abounds very much with machinery; and in 
this part of the work his merit is more dubious. 



Wherever celeftial beings are made to interpofe, 
his machinery is noble. God looking down upon 
the hods, and, on different occafions, fending an 
Angel to check the Pagans, and to rebuke the evil 
fpirits, produces a fublime effect. The defeription 
of Hell too, with the appearance and fpeech of 
Satan, in the beginning of the Fourth Book, is 
extremely Unking; and plainly has been imitated 
by Milton, though he mud be allowed to have 
improved upon it. But the devils, the inchanters, 
and the conjurers, a£t too great a part throughout 
Taflb's Poem; and form a fort of dark and gloomy 
machinery, not pleafing to the imagination. The 
enchanted wood, on which the Nodus, or Intrigue 
of the Poem, is made in a great meafure to de- 
pend; the meffengers fent in queft of Rinaldo, in 
order that he may break the charm; their being 
conducted by a Hermit to a Cave in the center of 
the earth; the wonderful voyage which they make 
to the Fortunate iflands; and their recovering Ri- 
naldo from the charms of Armida and voluptuous 
nefsj are fcenes which, though very amufing, and 
defcribed with the higheft beauty of Poetry, yec 
muft be confeffed to carry the marvellous to a de- 
gree of extravagance. 

In general, that for which Taflb is mod liable to 
cenfure, is a certain romantic vein, which runs 
through many of the adventures and incidents of 
his Poem. The objects which he prefents to us, 
are always great; but fometimes, too remote from 



probability. He retains fomewhat of the tafle of 
his age, which was not reclaimed from an ex- 
travagant admiration of the ftories of Knight-Er- 
rantry; ftories, which the wild, but rich and agree- 
able imagination of Ariofto, had raifed into frefh 
reputation, In apology > however, for TaiTo, it 
may be faid, that he is not more marvellous 
and romantic than either Homer or Virgil. All 
the difference is, that in the one we find the Ro- 
mance of Paganifm, in the other, that of Chi- 

With all the beauties of defcription, and of 
Poetical Style, TaiTo remarkably abounds. Both 
his defcriptions, and his ftyle, are much diverfified, 
and well-fuited to each other. In defcribing mag- 
nificent objects, his Style is firm and majeftic; 
when he defcends to gay and pleafing ones, fuch 
as Erminia's Paftoral Retreat in the Seventh Book, 
and the Arts and Beauty of Armida in the Fourth 
Book, it is foft and infinuating. Both thofe de- 
fcriptions, which I have mentioned, are exquifite 
in their kind. His battles are animated, and very 
properly varied in the incidents ; inferior however 
to Homer's, in point of fpirit and fire. 

In his fentiments, Tafib is not fo happy as in 
his defcriptions. It is indeed rather by actions, 
characters, and defcriptions, that he interests us, 
than by the fcnumental part of the work. He is 
far inferior to Virgil in tendernefs. When he aims 



at being pathetic and fentimental in his fpeeches, l e c t. 
he is apt to become artificial and {trained. 

With regard to points and conceits, with which 
he has often been reproached, the cenfure has 
been carried too far. Affectation is by no means 
the general character of Taffo's manner, which, 
upon the whole, is mafculine, ftrong, and correct:. 
On fome occafions, indeed, efpecially, as I juft 
now obferved, when he feeks to be tender, he de- 
generates' into forced and unnatural ideas; but thefe 
are far from being fo frequent or common as has 
been fuppofed. Threefcore or fourfcore lines re- 
trenched from the Poem, would fully clear it, I 
am perfuaded, of all fuch exceptionable pafTages. 

With Boileau, Dacier, and the other French 
Critics of the laft age, the humour prevailed of de- 
crying Taffo; and paffed from them to fome of 
the English Writers. But one would be apt to 
imagine; they were not much acquainted with 
Taiib; or at leaft they muft have read him under 
the influence of ftrong prejudices. For to me it 
appears clear, that the Jerufalem is, in rank and 
dignity, the third regular Epic Poem in the World; 
and comes next to the Iliad and TEneid. Taflb 
may be juftly held inferior to Homer, in fimplicity 
and in fire; to Virgil, in tenderneis ; to Milton, 
in daring fublimicy of genius; but to no other he 
yields in any poetical talents; and for fertility of 
invention, variety of incidents, exprefiion of cha- 


L xliv T ' ra< ^ ers > richnefs of defcription, and beauty of Style, 
^ -»■■ — i I know no Poet, except the three juft named, that 
can be compared to him. 

Ariosto, the great rival of TafTo in Italian 
Poetry, cannot, with any propriety, be clafled 
among the Epic Writers. The fundamental rule 
of Epic Compofition is, to recount an heroic 
enterprife, and to form it into a regular (lory. 
Though there is a fort of unity and connection 
in the plan of Orlando Furiofo, yet, inftead of 
rendering this apparent to the Reader, it feems to 
have been the Author's intention to keep it out of 
view by the defukory manner in which the Poem 
is carried on, and the perpetual interruptions of the 
feveral (lories before they are finifhed. Ariofto 
appears to have defpifed all regularity of plan, and 
to have chofen to give loofe reins to a copious 
and rich, but extravagant fancy. Af. the fame 
time, there is fo much Epic matter in the Or- 
lando Furiofo, that it would be improper to pafa 
it by without fome notice. It unites indeed all 
forts of Poetry j fometimes comic and fatiric j 
fometimes light and licentious j at other times, 
highly heroic, defcriptive, and tender. Whatever 
drain the Poet aflumes, he excels in it. He is 
always matter of his fubjeft; feems to play him- 
felfwith it; and leaves us fometimes at a lofs to 
know whether he be ferious or in jeft. He is fel- 
dom dramatic; fometimes, but not often, fenti- 
mentalj but in narration and defcription, perhaps 



no Poet ever went beyond him. He makes every L | LI C V T * 

fcene which he defcribes, and every event which 

he relates, pafs before our eyes j and in his felec- 

tion of circumftances, is eminently pidturefque. 

His Style is much varied, always fuited to the 

fubject, and adorned with a remarkably fmooth 

and melodious verification. 

As the Italians make their boaft of Tafib, Co.. 
do the Portuguefe of Camoens ; who was nearly 
cotemporary with Tafib, but whofe Poem was 
publifhed before the Jerufalem. The fubjecl: of 
it is the firft difcovery of the Eaft-indies by Vafco 
de Gama; an enterprife fplendid in its nature, 
and extremely interefting to the countrymen of 
Camoens, as it laid the foundation of their future 
wealth and confideration in Europe. The Poem 
opens with Vafco and his fleet appearing on the 
ocean, between the Ifland Madagafcar, and the coaft 
of ^Ethiopia. After various attempts to land on 
that coaft, they are at laft hofpitably received in 
the kingdom of Melinda. Vafco, at the defire of 
the King, gives him an account of Europe, recites 
a poetical hiftory of Portugal, and relates all the 
adventures of the voyage, which had preceded the 
opening of the Poem. This recital takes up three 
Cantos, or Books. It is well imagined -, contains 
a great many poetical beauties ; and has no defect, 
except that Vafco makes an unfeafonable difplay 
of learning to the African Prince, in frequent al- 
lufions to the Greek and Roman Hiftories. Vafco 



L xliv. T ' anc * ms countr y men afcerwards fet forth to purfbe 
their voyage. The ftorms and diftrefifes which 
they encounter j their arrival at Calecut on the 
Malabar coaft; their reception and adventures in 
that country, and at laft their return homewards, 
fill up the reft of the Poem. 

The whole work is conducted according to the 
Epic Plan. Both the fubject and the incidents 
are magnificent -, and, joined with fome wildnefs 
and irregularity, there appear in the execution much 
poetic fpirit, ftrong fancy, and bold defcription ; 
as far as I can judge from tranflations, without any 
knowledge of the original. There is no attempt 
towards painting characters in the Poem 3 Vafco 
is the hero, and the only perfonage indeed that 
makes any figure. 

The machinery of the Lufiad is perfectly ex- 
travagant ; not only is it formed of a fingular mix- 
ture of Chriftian ideas, and Pagan mythology $ 
but it is fo conducted, that the Pagan Gods ap- 
pear to be the true Deities, and Chrift and the 
BlefTed Virgin, to be fubordinate agents. One 
great fcope of the Portuguefe expedition, our 
Author informs us, is to propagate the Chriftian 
faith, and to extirpate Mahometanifm. In this 
religious undertaking, the great protector of the 
Portuguefe is Venus, and their great adverfary is 
Bacchus, whofe difpleafure is excitec^ by Vafco's 
attempting to rival his fame in the Indies. Councils 



of the Gods are held, in which Jupiter is intro- L iffy*' 

duced, as foretelling the downfal of Mahome- 

tanifm, and the propagation of the Gofpel. Vafco, 

in great diftrefs from a ftorm, prays mod feriouOy 

to God; implores the aid of Chrift and the Virgin, 

and begs for fuch afiiftance as was' given to the 

Ifraelites, when they were parting through the 

Red Sea, and to the ApOftle Paul, when he was 

in hazard of mipwreck. In return to this prayer, 

Venus appears, who difcerning the florm to be 

the work of Bacchus, complains to Jupiter, and 

procures the winds to be calmed. Such ftrange 

and prepofterous machinery, mows how much. 

Authors have been milled by the abfurd opinion, 

that there could be no Epic Poetry without the 

Gods of Homer. Towards the end of the work, 

indeed, the Author gives us ah awkward Salvo 

for his whole Mythology ; making the Goddefs 

Thetis inform Vafco, that fhe, and the reft of 

the Heathen Deities, are no more than names 

to defcribe the operations of Providence. 

There is, however, fome fine machinery, of a 
different kind, in the Lufiad. The genius of the 
river Ganges, appearing to Emanuel King of Por- 
tugal, in a dream, inviting that P'rince to difcover 
hi« fecret fprings, and acquainting him that he was 
the deftined monarch for whom the treafures of 
the Eaft were referved, is a happy idea. But the 
nobleft conception of this fort, is in the Fifth Canto, 
where Vafco is recounting to the King of Melindaj 

vol. in. a ail 


L xlivJ' a ^ C ^ e wonc ^ ers which he met with in his naviga- 
c - y - ■■ i tion. He tells him, that when the fleet arrived at 
the Cape of Good Hope, which never before had 
been doubled by any navigator, there appeared to 
them on a fudden, a huge and monftrous phantom 
rifing out of the fea, in the midft of tempefts and 
thunders, with a head that reached the clouds, and 
a countenance that filled them with terror. This 
was the genius, or guardian, of that hitherto un- 
known ocean. It fpoke to them with a voice like 
thunder; menaced them, for invading thofe feas 
which he had fo long poflefled undifturbed; and 
for daring to explore thofe fecrets of the deep, 
which never had been revealed to the eye of 
mortals; required them to proceed no farther; if 
they fhould proceed, foretold all the fucceffive 
calamities that were to befal them; and then, with 
a mighty noife, difappeared. This is one of the 
mod folemn and ftriking pieces of machinery that 
ever was employed; and is fufficient to fhow that 
Camoens is a Poet, though of an irregular, yet of 
a bold and a lofty imagination*. 

In reviewing the Epic Poets, it were unjuft. to 
make no mention of the amiable author of the 

* I have made no mention of the Araucana, an Epic Poem, 
In Spanilh, compofed by Alonzo d'Ercilla, becaufe I am unac- 
quainted with the original language, and have not feen any 
tranflation of it. A full account of it is given by Mr. Hayley, 
i.n the Notes upon his Eflay on Epic Poetry. 



Adventures of Telemachus. His work, though 
not compofed in Verfe, is juftly entitled to be held 
a Poem. The meafured poetical Profe, in which 
it is written, is remarkably harmonious; and gives 
the Style nearly as much elevation as the French 
language is capable of fupporting, even in regular 

The plan of the work is, in general, well con- 
trived; and is deficient neither in Epic grandeur, 
nor unity of object. The Author has entered 
with much felicity into the fpirit and ideas of the 
Ancients Poets, particularly into the Antient My- 
thology, which retains more dignity, and makes a 
better figure in his hands, than in ihofc of any 
other Modern Poer. His defcriptions are rich 
and beautiful; efpecially of the fofter and calmer 
fcenes, for which the genius of Fenelon was bed 
fuited; fuch as the incidents of paftoral life, the 
pleafures of virtue, or a country flourilhing in 
peace. There is an inimitable fweetnefs and tender- 
nefs in feveral of the pictures of this kind, which 
he has given. 

The bed executed part of the work, is the firft 
fix Books, in which Telemachus recounts his 
adventures to Calypfo. The narration, throughout 
them, is lively and interefting. Afterwards, efpe- 
cially in the laft twelve Books, it becomes more 
tedious and languid; and in the warlike adventures 
which are attempted, there is a great ddcd: of 
s 2 vigour. 


L xliv T ' v ^&• our • The chief objection againft this work- 
being clafled with Epic Poems, arifes from the 
minute details of virtuous policy, into which the 
Author in fome places enters; and from the dif- 
courfes and inftructions of Mentor, which recur 
upon us too often ; and too much in the ftrain of 
common- place morality. Though thefe were well 
fuited to the main defign of the Author, which 
was to form the mind of a young Prince, yet they 
feem not congruous to the nature of Epic Poetry j 
the object of which is to improve us by means of 
actions, characters, and fentiments, rather than by 
delivering profefled and formal instruction. 

Several of the Epic Poets have defcribed a 
defcent into Hell; and in the profpects they have 
given us of the invifible world, we may obferve 
the gradual refinement of men's notions concerning 
a (late of future rewards and puniihments. The 
defcent of Ulyflfes into Hell, in Homer's OdyfTef, 
prefents to us a very indiftinct and dreary fort of 
object. The fcene is laid in the country of the 
Cimmerians, which is always covered with clouds 
and darknefs, at the extremity of the ocean. 
When the fpirits of the dead begin to appear, we 
icarcely know whether Ulyfles is above ground, or 
below it. None of the ghofts, even of the heroes, 
appear fatisfied with their condition in the other 
world; and when Ulylles endeavours to comfort 
Achilles, by reminding him of the llluitrious 
figure which he mull make in thole regions, 



Achilles roundly tells him, that all fuch fpeeches L JJJ To 
are idle; for, he would rather be a day-labourer on 
earth, than have the command of all the dead. 

In the Sixth Book of the ^Eneid, we difcern a 
much greater refinement of ideas, correfponding to 
the progrefs which the world had then made in 
philofophy. The objects there delineated, are 
both more clear and diftincl:, and more grand and 
awful. The feparate manfions of good and of bad 
fpirits, with the punilhments of the one, and the 
employments and happinefs of the other, are finely 
defcribed; and in confiftency with the moil pure 
morality. But the vifit which Fenelon makes 
Telemachus pay to the fhades, is much more phi- 
lofophical ftill than Virgil's. He employs the 
fame fables and the fame mythology; but we find 
the antient mythology refined by the knowledge of 
the true religion, and adorned with that beautiful 
enthufiafm, for which Fenelon was fo diftinguifhed. 
His account of the happinefs of the juft is an ex- 
cellent defcription in the myftic drain; and very 
exprefEve of the genius and fpirit of the Author. 

Voltaire has given us, in his Henriade, a 
regular Epic Poem, in French verfe. In every 
performance of that celebrated Writer, we may 
expect to find marks of genius; and, accordingly, 
that work difcovers, in feveral places, that boldnefs 
in the conceptions, and that livelinefs and felicity 
in the exprefiion, for which the Author is fo re- 
£ 3 markably 


markably diftinguifhed. Several of the compa- 
nions, in particular, which occur in it, are both 
new and happy. But confidered upon the whole, 
I cannot efteem it one of his chief productions; 
and am of opinion, that he has fucceeded infinitely 
better in Tragic, than in Epic Compofition. 
French Verification feems ill adapted to Epic 
Poetry. Befides its being always fettered by rhyme, 
the language never afiumes a fuffjcient degree of 
elevation or majefty; and appears to be more 
capable of expreffing the tender in Tragedy, than 
of fupporting the fublime in Epic. Hence a 
feeblenefs, and fometimes a profaic fl itnefs, in the 
Style of the Henriade; and whether from this, or 
from lbme other caufe, the Poem often languishes. 
It does not feize the imagination; nor intereft and 
carry the Reader along, with that ardour which 
ought to be infpired by a fublime and fpirited Epic 

The fubject of the Henriade, is the triumph of 
Henry the Fourth over the arms of the League. 
The action of the Poem, properly includes only 
the Siege of Paris. It is an action perfectly Epic 
in its nature; great, interefting, and conducted 
with a fufficient regard to unity, and all the other 
critical rules. But it is liable to both the defers 
which I before remarked in Lucan's Pharfalia. It 
is founded wholly on civil wars; and prefents to us 
thofe odious and deteitable objects of m.uTacres 
and a{Taffinations. which throw a gloom over the. 



Poem. It is alfo, like Lucan's, of too recent a L E r c T - 
date, and comes too much within the bounds of 
well-known hiftory. To remedy this laft defect, 
and to remove the appearance of being a mere 
hiftorian, Voltaire has chofen to mix fiction with 
truth. The Poem, for inftance, opens with a 
voyage of Henry's to England, and an interview 
between him and Queen Elizabeth ; though every 
one knows that'Henry never was in England, and 
that thefe two illuftrious perfonages never met. 
In facts of fuch public notoriety, a fiction like this 
fhocks the Reader, and forms an unnatural and 
ill-forted mixture with hiftorical truth. The 
Epifode was contrived, in order to give Henry an 
opportunity of recounting the former tranfactions 
of the civil wars, in imitation of the recital which 
./Eneas makes to Dido in the TEneid. But the 
imitation was injudicious. TEneas mighr, with 
propriety, relate to Dido, tran factions of which (lie 
was either entirely ignorant, or had acquired only 
an imperfect knowledge by fiying reports. But 
Queen Elizabeth could not bur be fuppofed to be 
perfectly apprifed of all the facts, which the Poe$ 
makes Henry recite to her. 

In order to embellilh his fubject, Voltaire has 
chofen to employ a great deal of machinery. But 
here alfo, I am obliged to cenfure his conduct; for 
the machinery, which he chiefly employs, is of the 
worft kind, and the lead fuited to an Epic Poem, 
that of allegorical beings. Difcord, Cunning, and 
s % Love, 


L E C T. 


Love, appear as perfonages, mix with the human 
actors, and make a confiderable figure in the in- 
trigue of the Poem. This is contrary to every 
rule of rational criticifm. Ghofts, Angels, and 
Devils have popular belief on their fide, and may 
be conceived as exifting. But every one knows, 
that allegorical beings are no more than reprefen- 
tations of human difpofitions and paffions. They 
may be employed like other Perfonifications and 
Figures of Speech ; or in a Poem, that is wholly 
allegorical, they may occupy the chief place. 
They are there in their native and proper region ; 
but in a Poem which relates to human tranfactions, 
as I had occafion before to remark, when fuch 
beings are defcribed as acting along with men, the 
imagination is confounded -, it is divided between 
phantafms and realities, and knows not on what to 

In juftice, however, to our Author, I muft 
obferve, that the machinery of St. Louis, which 
he alio employs, is of a better kind, and poffeflfcs 
real dignity. The fined paflage in the Henriade, 
indeed one of the fined that occurs in any Poem, 
. is the profpect of the invifible world, which St. 
Louis gives to Henry in a dream, in the Seventh 
Canto. Death bringing the fouls of the departed 
in fucceffion before God; r.heir aftonifhment when, 
arriving from all different countries and religious 
feels, they are brought into the divine prefence; 
when they find their fuperftitions to be falfe, and 
1 hayg 


have the truth unveiled to them; the palace of the 
Deftinies opened to Henry, and the profpect of his 
fucceflbrs which is there given him; are ftriking 
and magnificent objects, and do honour to the ge- 
nius of Voltaire. 

Though fome of the Epifodes in this Poem are 
properly extended, yet the narration is, on the 
whole, too general; the events are too much 
crowded, and fuperficially related; which is, doubt- 
lefs, one caufe of the Poem making a faint im- 
prefiion. The ftrain of feiyiment which runs 
through it, is high and noble. Religion appears, 
on every occafion, with great and proper luftre; 
and the Author breathes that fpirit of humanity 
and toleration, which is confpicuous in all his 

Milton, of whom it remains now to fpeak, has 
chalked out for himfelf a new, and very extraordi- 
nary road, in Poetry. As foon as we open his 
Paradife Loft, we find ourfelves introduced all at 
once into an invifible world, and furrounded with 
celeftial and infernal beings. Angels and Devils 
are not the machinery, but principal adlors, in the 
Poem; and what, in any other compofition, would 
be the marvellous, is here only the natural courfe 
of events. A fubject fo remote from the affairs of 
this world, may furnifli ground to thofe who think 
fuch difcuffions material, to bring it into doubt, 
whether Paradife Loft can properly be clafted 



L xl t v T * arnon S Epic Poems. By whatever name it is to 
*— y^-> be called, it is, undoubtedly, one of the higheil 
efforts of poetical genius ; and in one great charac- 
teristic of the Epic Poem, Majefty and Sublimity, 
it is fully equal to any that bear that name. 

How far the Author was altogether happy in 
the choice of his fubjeft, may be queftionod. It 
has led him into very difficult ground. Had he 
taken a fubject that was more human, and lefs 
theological; that was more connected with the 
occurrences of life, and afforded a greater difplay 
of the characters and paflions of men, his Poem 
would, perhaps, have, to the bulk of Readers, been 
more pleafing and attractive. But the fubjeft 
which he has chofen, fuited the daring fublimity of 
his genius*. It is a fubject for which Milton 
alone was fitted; and in the conduct of it, he has 
fhewn a ftretch both of imagination and invention, 
which is perfe&ly wonderful. It is artonifhing 
how, from the few hints given us in the Sacred 
Scriptures, he was able to raife fo complete and 

* '* He feems to have been well acquainted with his own 
*■' genius, and to know what it was that nature had bellowed 
*' upon him more bountifully than upon others; the power of 

difplaying the vaft, illuminating the fplendid, enforcing the 
" awful, darkening the gloomy, and aggravating the dreadful. 
" He therefore chofe a fubjecl, on which too much could not be 
" faid ; on which he might tire his fancy, without the ceniure 
" of extravagance.' 3 Dr. Johnson's Life of Milton 



regular a ftructure; and to fill his Poem with fuch L E J* T< 
a variety of incidents. Dry and harfh paffages 
fometimes occur. The Author appears, upon 
Tome occafions, a Metaphyfician and a Divine, 
rather than a Poet. But the general tenor of his 
work is interefling; he feizes and fixes the imagi- 
nation j engages, elevates, and affects us as we pro- 
ceeds which is always a fure teffc of merit in an 
Epic CompoGtion. The artful change of his ob- 
jects; the fcene laid now in Earth, now in Hell, 
and now in Heaven, affords a fufficient diverfity; 
while unity of plan is, at the fame time, perfectly 
fupported. We have ftill life, and calm fcenes, in 
the employments of Adam and Eve" in Paradife; 
and we have bufy fcenes, and great actions, in the 
enterprize of Satan, and the wars of the Angels. 
The innocence, purity, and amiablenefs of our firfb 
parents, oppoled to the pride and ambition of 
Satan, furnilhes a happy contrail, that reigns 
throughout the whole Poem$ only the Conclufion, 
as I before obferved, is too tragic for Epic Poetry. 

The nature of the fubject did not admit any 
great difplay of characters; but fuch as could be 
introduced, are fupported with much propriety. 
Satan, in particular, makes a ftriking figure, and is, 
indeed, the beft drawn character in the Poem. 
Milton has not defcribed him, fuch as we 
fuppofe an infernal fpirit to be. He has, more 
fuitably to his own purpofe, given him a human, 
that is, a mixed character, not altogether void of 



L xuv T * ^ ome S 00 ^ qualities. He is brave and faithful to 
his troops. In the midft of his impiety, he is not 
without remorfe. He is even touched with pity 
for our firft parents; and juftifies himfelf in^his de- 
fign againft them, from the necefiity of his fitua- 
tion. He is actuated by ambition and refentment, 
rather than by pure malice. In fhort, Milton's 
Satan is no worfe than many a confpirator or fac- 
tious chief, that makes a figure in hiflory. The 
different characters of Beelzebub, Moloch, Belial, 
are exceedingly well painted in thofe eloquent 
fpeeches which they make in the Second Book. 
The good Angels, though always defcribed with 
dignity and propriety, have more uniformity than 
the Infernal Spirits in their appearance; though 
among them, too, the dignity of Michael, the 
mild condefcenfion of Raphael, and the tried fide- 
lity of Abdiel, form proper characteriftical diftinc- 
tions. The attempt to defcribe God Almighty 
himfelf, and to recount dialogues between the 
Father and the Son, was too bold and arduous, 
and is that wherein our Poet, as was to have been 
expected, has been mod unfuccefsful. With regard 
to his human characters; the innocence of our firft 
parents, and their love, are finely and delicately 
painted. In fome of his fpeeches to Raphael and 
to Eve, Adam is, perhaps, too knowing and re- 
fined for his fituation. Eve is more diftinclly 
eharacterifed. Her gentlenefs, modeity, and frailty, 
mark very expreflively a female character. 



Milton's great and diftinguilhing excellence l e c t. 
is, his fublimity. In this, perhaps, he excels 
Homer j as there is no doubt of his leaving Virgil, 
and every other Poet, far behind him. Almoft the 
whole of the Firft and Second Books of Paradife 
Loft are continued inftances of the fublime. The 
profpect of Hell and of the fallen Hoft, the appear- 
ance and behaviour of Satan, the confutation of 
the infernal chiefs, and Satan's flight through Chaos 
to the borders of this world, difcover the moft lofty 
ideas that ever entered into the conception of any 
Poet. In the Sixth Book alfo, there is much 
grandeur, particularly in the appearance of the 
Meffiah ; though fome parts of that book are Cenfur- 
ablej and the witticifms of the Devils upon the ef- 
fect of their artillery, form an intolerable blemifli. 
Milton's fublimity is of a different kind from that 
of Homer. Homer's is generally accompanied 
with fire and impetuofity -, Milton's pofTeftes more 
of a calm and amazing grandeur. Homer warms 
and hurries us along; Milton fixes us in a ftate of 
aftonifhment and elevation. Homer's fublimity 
appears moft in the defcription of actions j Mil- 
ton's, in that of wonderful and ftupendous objects. 

But though Milton is rnoft diftinguifhed for his 
fublimity, yet there is alfo much of the beautiful, 
the tender, and the pleafing, in many parts of his 
work. When the fcene is laid in Paradife, the 
imagery is always of the moft gay and fmiling kind* 
Hb defcriptions fhow an uncommonly fertile ima- 
gination j 


L xLrv- T# g' mat i° n » ar >d m his fimilies, he is, for the mod 
part, remarkably happy. They are feldom impro- 
perly introduced; feldom either low, or trite. They 
generally prefent to us images taken from the fub- 
lime or the beautiful clafs of objects ; if they have 
any faults, it is their alluding too frequently to mat- 
ters of learning, and to fables of antiquity. In the 
latter part of Paradife Loll, there mull; be confeff- 
ed to be a falling off. With the fall of our firfl 
parents, Milton's genius feems to decline. Beau- 
ties, however, there are, in the concluding Books, 
of the tragic kind. The remorle and contrition of 
the guilty pair, and their lamentations over Para- 
dife, when they are obliged to leave it, are very 
moving. The laft Epifode of the Angel's mow- 
ing Adam the fate of his pofterity, is happily ima- 
gined ; but, in many places, the execution is 

Milton's language and verification have high 
merit. His Style is full of majefty, and wonder- 
fully adapted to his fubjeft. His blank verfe is 
harmonious and diverfified, and affords the mod 
complete example of the elevation, which our lan- 
guage is capable of attaining by the force of num- 
bers. It does not flow like the French verfe, in 
tame, regular, uniform melody, which foon tires 
the ear; but is fometimes fmooth and flowing, 
fometimes rough ; varied in its cadence, and inter- 
mixed with difcords, fo as to fuit the ftrength and 
freedom of Epic Compofition. Neglected and 
8 profaic 


profaic lines, indeed, we fometimes meet with; L > f n y T * 
but, in a work fo long, and in the main fo harmo- 
nious, thefe may be forgiven. 

On the whole; Paradife Loft is a Poem that 
abounds with beauties of every kind, and that juftly 
entitles its Author to a degree of fame not inferior 
to any Poet; though it muft be alfo admitted to 
have many inequalities. It is the lot of almoft 
every high and daring genius, not to be uniform 
and correct. Milton is too frequently theological 
and metaphyfical; fometimes harfh in his language; 
ofted too technical in his words, and affectedly 
oftentatious of his learning. Many of his faults 
muft be attributed to the pedantry of the age in 
which he lived. He difcovers a vigour, a grafp 
of genius equal to every thing that is great; if at 
ibme times he falls much below himfelf, at other 
times he rifes above every Poet, of the antient or 
modern world. 

L E C T .U R E XLV. 



^amatic Poetry has, among all civilized na- 
tions, been confidered as a rational and ufeful 
entertainment, and judged worthy of careful and fe- 
rious difcuffion. According as it is employed upon 
the light and the gay, or upon the grave and affect- 
ing incidents of human life, it divides itfelf into the 
two forms, of Comedy or Tragedy. But as great 
and ferious objects command more attention than 
little and ludicrous ones ; as the fall of a Hero in- 
terefts the public more than the marriage of a pri- 
vate perfon ; Tragedy has been always held a more 
dignified entertainment than Comedy. The one 
fefts upon the high pafllons, the virtues, crimes, 
and fufferings of mankind; the other on their hu- 
mours, follies, and pleafures. Terror and pity are 
the great inftruments of the former; ridicule is the 
fole instrument of the latter. Tragedy fhall there- 
fore be the object of our fulleft difcuffion. This 
and the following Lecture fhall be employed on ir s - 
after which I fhall treat of what is peculiar to Co- 



Tragedy, confidered as an exhibition of the 
'characters and behaviour of men, in fome of the 
mod trying and critical fituations of life, is a noble 
idea of Poetry. It is a direct imitation of human 
manners and actions. For it does not, like the 
Epic Poem, exhibit characters by the narration 
and defcription of the Poet; but the Poet difap- 
pears ; and the perfonages themfelves are fet before 
us, acting and fpeaking what is fuitable to their 
characters. Plence, no kind of writing is fo great 
a trial of the Author's profound knowledge of the 
human heart. No kind of writing; has fo much 
power, when happily executed, to raife the (Irongeft 
emotions. It is, or ought to be, a mirror in 
which we behold ourfelves, and the evils to which 
vve are expofed ; a faithful copy of the human paf- 
fions, with all their direful effects, when they are 
fuffered to become extravagant. 

As Tragedy is a high and diftinguifhed fpecies 
of Compofition, fo alfo, in its general drain and 
fpirit, it is favourable to virtue. Such power hath 
virtue happily over the human mind, by the wife 
and gracious conftitution of our nature, that as ad- 
miration cannot be raifed. in Epic Poetry, fo nei- 
ther in Tragic Poetry can our paffions be ftrongly 
moved, unlefs virtuous emotions be awakened 
within us. Every Poet finds, that it is impoffible 
to intereft us in any character, without reprefent- 
ing that character as worthy and honourable, 
though it may not be perfect i and that the great 

vol. in. t fecret 


L xlv T ' f ecret ^ or rainn g indignation, is to paint the per- 
fon who is to be the object of it, in the colours 
of vice and depravity. He may, indeed, nay, 
he mud, repreient the virtuous as fometimes un- 
fortunate, becaufe this is often the cafe in real 
life ; but he will always ftudy to engage our hearts 
in their behalf j and though they may be defcribed 
as unprofperous, yet there is no inftance of a Tra- 
gic Poet reprefenting vice as fully triumphant, and 
happy, in the cataftrophe of the Piece. Even when 
bad men fucceed in their defigns, punifhment is 
made always to attend themj and mifery of one 
kind or other, is fhewn to be unavoidably connected 
with guilt. Love and admiration of virtuous cha- 
raclers, companion for the injured and the diftrefTed, 
and indignation againft the authors of their furTer- 
ings, are the fentiments molt generally excited by 
Tragedy. And, therefore, though Dramatic 
Writers may fometimes, like other Writers, be 
guilty of improprieties, though they may fail of 
placing virtue precifely in the due point of light, 
yet no reafonable perlon can deny Tragedy to be 
a moral fpecies of Compofition. Taking Tra- 
gedies complexly, I am fully perfuaded, that the 
imprefiions left by them upon the mind, are, on 
the whole, favourable to virtue and good difpofi- 
tions. And, therefore, the zeal which fome pious 
men have fiiown againft the entertainments of the 
Theatre, mud reft only upon the abufe of Comedy 5 
which, indeed, has frequently been fo great as to 
juftify very fevere cenfures againft it. 



The account which Ariftotle eives of the defign L E c T - 


of Tragedy is, that it is intended to purge our pal- 
fions by means of pity and terror. This is fome- 
what obfeure. Vai - ious fenfes have been put upon 
his words, and much altercation has followed among 
his commentators. Without entering into any 
controverfy upon this head, the intention of Tra- 
gedy may, I think, be more fhortly and clearly de- 
fined, To improve our virtuous fenfibility. If an 
Author interefts us in behalf of virtue, forms us to 
compaffion for the diftrefied, infpires us with pro- 
per fentiments, on beholding the viciflltudes of 
life, and, by means of the concern which he raifes 
for the misfortunes of others, leads us to guard 
againft errors in our own conduct, he a ccomplifhes 
all the moral purpofes of Tragedy. 

In order to this end, the firft requifite is, that 
he choofe fome moving and interefting ftory, and 
that he conduct it in a natural and probable manner. 
For we muft obferve, that the natural and the pro- 
bable muft always be the bafis of Tragedy; and 
are infinitely more important there, than in Epic 
"Poetry. The object of the Epic Poet, is to excite 
our admiration by the recital of heroic adventures; 
and a much (lighter degree of probability is requir- 
ed when admiration is concerned, than when the 
tender pafiions are intended to be moved. The 
imagination, in the former cafe, is exalted, ac- 
commodates itfelf to the Poet's idea, and can ad- 
mit the marvellous, without being (hocked. But 
Tragedy demands a ftricter imitation of the life and 

t 2 actions 


L xlv. T actions of men. For the end which it purfues is, 
not To much to elevate the imagination, as to affect 
the heart; and the heart always judges more nicely 
than the imagination, of what is probable. Paf- 
fion can be railed, only by making the impreflions 
of nature, and of truth, upon the mind. By intro- 
ducing, therefore, any wild or romantic circum- 
ftances into his Story, the Poet never fails to check 
paffion in its growth, and, of courfe, difappoints the 
main effect of Tragedy. 

This principle, which is founded on the cleared 
reafon, excludes from Tragedy all machinery, or 
fabulous intervention of the Gods. Ghofts have, 
indeed, maintained their place; as being ftrongly 
founded on popular belief, and peculiarly fuited to 
heighten the terror of Tragic Scenes. But all un- 
ravellings of the Plot, which turn upon the inter- 
pofition of Deities, fuch as Euripides employs in 
feveral of his Plays, are much to be condemned ; 
both as clumfy and inartificial, and as deftroying 
the probability of the Story. This mixture of 
machinery, with the Tragic Action, is undoubt- 
edly a blemifh in the Antient Theatre. 

In order to promote that imprefllon of probability 
which is fo neceffary to the fuccefs of Tragedy, 
fome Critics have required, that the fubject fhould 
never be a pure fiction invented by the Poet, but 
built on real hiftory, or known facts. Such, in- 
deed, were generally, if not always, the fubjects of 
the Greek Tragedians. But I cannot hold this to 



be a matter of any great confequence. It is proved 
by experience, that a fictitious tale, if properly con- 
dueled, will melt the heart as much as any real hif- 
tory. In order to our being moved, it is not necef- 
fary, that the events related did actually happen, 
provided they be fuch as might eafily have happened 
in the ordinary courfe of nature. Even when Tra- 
gedy borrows its materials from Hiftory, it mixes 
many a fictitious circumftance. The greateft part 
of Readers neither know, nor enquire, what is 
fabulous, or what is hiltorical, in the fubject. They 
attend only to what is probable, and are touched 
by events which refemble nature. Accordingly, 
fome of the mod pathetic Tragedies are entirely 
fictitious in the fubject; fuch as Voltaire's Zaire 
and Alzire, the Orphan, Douglas, the Fair Peni- 
tent, and feveral others. 

Whether the fubject be of the real or feigned 
kind, that on which mod depends for rendering the 
incidents in a Tragedy probable, and by means of 
their probability affecting, is the conduit or ma- 
nagement of the Story, and the connexion of its 
feveral parts. To regulate this conduct, Critics 
have laid down the famous rule of the three Uni- 
ties; the importance of which, it will be neceflary 
to difcufs. But, in order to do this with more ad- 
vantage, it will be neceflary, that we firft look 
backwards, and trace the rife and origin of Tra- 
gedy, which will give light to feveral things relat- 
ing to the fubject, 

t 3 Tragedy, 


Tragedy, like other arts, was, in its begin- 
nings, rude and imperfect. Among the Greeks, 
from whom our Dramatic Entertainments are de- 
rived, the origin of Tragedy was no other than the 
Song which was wont to be fung at the feftival of 
Bacchus. A goat was the iacrifice offered to that 
Gcd; after the facrifice, the Priefts, with the com- 
pany that joined them, fung hymns in honour of 
Bacchus j and from the name of the victim, rgxyo; 
a Goat, joined with $ty a Song, undoubtedly 
arofe the word, Tragedy. 

These Hymns, or Lyric Poems, were fung 
fometimes by the whole company, fometimes by 
feparate bands, anfwering alternately to each other j 
making what we call a Chorus, with its Strophes 
and Antiftrophes. In order to throw fome variety 
into this entertainment, and to relieve the Singers, 
it was thought proper to introduce a perfon who, 
between the Songs, mould make a recitation in 
Verfe. Thefpis, who lived about 536 years before 
the Chriflian sera, made this innovation j and, as 
it was relimed, iEfchylus, who came 50 years after 
him, and who is properly the father of Tragedy, 
went a ftep farther, introduced a Dialogue between 
two perfons, or actors, in which he contrived to 
interweave fome interefting Story, and brought 
his actors on a Stage, adorned with proper fcenery 
*ind decorations. All that thefe actors recited, was 
called Epifjde, or additional Song; and the Songs 
cf the Chorus were made to relate no longer to 



Bacchus, their original fubject, but to the Story L * L £ T. 
in which the Actors were concerned. This began 
to give the Drama a regular form, which was loon 
after brought to perfection by Sophocles and Eu- 
ripides. It is remarkable, in how ihort a fpace of 
time Tragedy grew up among the Greeks, from the 
rudefi beginnings to its mod perfect: ftate^ For 
Sophocles, the greateft and moft correct of all the 
Tragic Poets, flourifhed only 22 years after JEC- 
chylus, and was little more than 70 years pofterior 
to Thefpis. 

From the account which I have now given, it 
appears, that the Chorus was the bafis or founda- 
tion of the antient Tragedy. It was not an orna- 
ment added to it; or a contrivance defigned to ren- 
der it more perfect; but, in truth, the Dramatic 
Dialogue was an addition to the Chorus, which was 
the original entertainment. In procefs of time, the 
Chorus, from being the principal, became only the 
accefibry in Tragedy; till at laft, in Modern Tra- 
gedy, it has difappeared altogether; which forms 
the chief distinction between the Antient and the 
Modern Stage. 

This has given rife to a queftion, much agitated 
between the partizans of the Antients and the Mo- 
derns, whether the Drama has gained, or has fuf- 
•fered, by the abolition of the Chorus. It mud: be 
admitted, that the Chorus tended to render Tra- 
gedy both more magnificent and more inftructive 

t 4 and 


h e c 


and moral. It was always the moft fublime and 
poetical part of the work j and being carried on by 
finging, and accompanied with mufic, it muft, nq 
doubt, have diverfified the Entertainment greatly, 
and added to its fplendour. The Chorus, at the fame 
time, conveyed conftant leflbns of virtue. It was 
compofed of fuch perfons as might moft naturally 
be fuppofed prefent on the occafion; inhabitants of 
the place where the fcene was laid, often the com- 
panions of fome of the principal actors, and there- 
fore, in fome degree interefted in the iffue of the 
action. This company, which, in the days of So- 
phocles, was refrricted to the number of fifteen 
perfons, was conftantly on the Stage, during the 
whole performance, mingled in difcourfe with the 
actors, entered into their concerns, fuggefted coun- 
fel and advice to them, moralifed on all the inci- 
dents that were going on, and during the intervals 
of the action, fung their Odes, or Songs, in which 
they addreffed the Gods, prayed for fuccefs to the 
virtuous, lamented their misfortunes, and delivered 
many religious and moral fentiments *. 


* The office of the Chorus is thus defcribed by Horace 

Adtoris partes Chorus, officiumque virile 
Defendat; neu quid medios intercinat aftus, 
Quod non propofito conducat, et hasreat apte. 
Ille bonis faveatque, et concilietur arnicis, 
Et regat iratos, et amet peccare timentes : 
Jlle dapes laudet menfas brevis ; ille falubrem 
Juftitiam, legefque, & apertis otia porti*. 




But, notwithstanding the advantages which were l £ c t. 


obtained by means of the Chorus, the inconve- 
niencies on the other fide are fo great, as to render the 
modern practice of excluding the Chorus, far more 
eligible upon the whole. For if a natural and pro- 
vable imitation of human actions be the chief end 
of the Drama, no other perfons ought to be brought 
on the Stage, than thofe who are necefiary to the 
Dramatic action. The introduction of an adven- 
titious company of perfons, who have but a flight 
concern in the bufinefs of the play, is unnatural 
in itfelf, embarrafiing to the Poet, and, though 
it may render the fpectacle fplendid, tends, un- 
doubtedly, to render it more cold and unintereft- 
ing, becaufe more unlike a real traniaclion. The 
mixture of Mufic, or Song, on the part of the 

Ille tegat commifTa ; deofque precetur, et oret 
Uv redeat mifcris, abeat fortuna fuperbis. 

De Art. Poet. 193. 

The Chorus muft fupport an a&or's part, 
Defend the virtuous, and advife with art; 
Govern the choleric, and the proud -appeafe, 
And the fhort feafts of frugal tables praife ; 
Applaud the juftice of weil-govern'd itates, 
And peace triumphant with her open gates. 
Intrufted fecrets let them ne'er betray, 
But to the righteous Gods with ardour pray, 
That fortune, with returning fmiles, may blefs 
Affli&ed worth, and impious pride deprefs; 
Yet let their fongs with apt coherence join, 
Promote the plot, and aid the juft defign. 




E c 


: T - Chorus, with the Dialogue carried on by the Ac- 

tors, is another unnatural circumftance, removing 
the reprefentation (till farther from the refemblance 
of life. The Poet, befides, is fubje&ed to innu- 
merable difficulties, in fo contriving his plan, that 
the prefence of the Chorus, during all the incidents 
of the Play, (hall confift with any probability. The 
fcene muft be conftantly, and often abfurdly, laid 
in fome public place, that the Chorus may be fup- 
pofed to have free accefs to it To many things 
that ought to be tranfacled in private, the Chorus 
muft ever be witneflfes; they muft be the confede- 
rates of both parties, who come fucceffively upon 
the Stage, and v.ho are, perhaps, confpiring againft 
each other. In (hort, the management of a Cho- 
rus is an unnatural confinement to a Poet; it re- 
quires too great a facrifice of probability in the con- 
duct of the action ; it has too much the air of a 
theatrical decoration, to be confident with that ap- 
pearance of reality, which a Poet muft ever pre- 
fcrve in order to move our pafilons. The origin 
of Tragedy, among the Greeks, we have feen, 
"was a choral Song, or Hymn, to the Gods. There 
is no wonder, therefore, that on the Greek Stage 
it fo long maintained pofleflion. But it may con- 
fidently, I think, be aiTerted, that if, inftead of the 
Dramatic Dialogue having been fuperadded to the 
Chorus, the Dialogue itfelf had been the firft in- 
vention, the Chorus would, in that cafe, never 
have been thought of. 

4 One 


One ufe, I am of opinion, might frill be made L E G T * 


of the Antient Chorus, and would be a confidera- 
ble improvement of the Modern Theatre; if, in- 
ftead of that unmeaning, and often improperly 
chofen Mufic, with which the Audience is enter- 
tained in the intervals between the acts, a Chorus 
were then to be introduced, whofe Mufic and Songs, 
though forming no part of the Play, fhould have 
a relation to the incidents of the preceding act, 
and to the difpofnions which thofe incidents are pre- 
fumed to have awakened in the Spectators. By 
this means, the tone of paffion would be kept up 
without interuption; and all the go:d effects of the 
Antient Chorus might be preferved, for infpiring 
proper fentiments, and for increafing the morality 
of the Performance, without thofe inconveniencies 
which arofe from the Chorus forming a conftituent 
part of the Play, and mingling unfeafonably, and 
unnaturally, with the perfonages of the Drama. / 

After the view which we have taken of the rife 
of Tragedy, and of the nature of the Antient Cho- 
rus, with the advantages and inconveniencies at- 
tending it, our way is cleared for examining, with 
more advantage, the three Unities of Action, 
Place, and Time, which have generally been con- 
sidered as effential to the proper conduct of the 
Dramatic Fable. 

Of thefe three, the firft, Unity of Action, is, 
beyond doubt, far the moft important. In treating 


284 * T R A G E 1> Y. 

L xlv T °^ -^P' c P° eCr yj I have already explained the na- 
ture of it; as confiding in a relation which all the 
incidents introduced bear to fome defign or effect, 
fo as to combine naturally into one whole. This 
unity of fubject is dill more effential to Tragedy, 
than it is to Epic Poetry. For a multiplicity of 
Plots, or Actions, crowded into fo fhort a fpace 
as Tragedy allows, mud, of necefiity, diftract the 
attention, and prevent paffion from rifing to any 
height. Nothing, therefore, is worfe conduct in 
a Tragic Poet, than to carry on two independent 
actions in the fame Play; the effect of which is, 
that the mind being fufpended and divided between 
them, cannot give itfelf up entirely either to the 
one or the other. There may, indeed, be under- 
plots; that is, the perfons introduced, may have 
different purfuits and dcfignsj but the Poet's art 
muff be fhown in managing thefe, fo as to render 
them fubfervient to the main action. They 
ought to be connected with the cataftrophe of the 
Play, and to confpire in bringing it forward. If 
there be any intrigue which (lands feparate and in- 
dependent, and which may be left out without afr 
feeling the unravelling of the Plot, we may always 
conclude this to be a faulty violation of Unity. 
Such Fpifodes are not permitted here, as in Epic 

We have a clear example of this defect in Mr. 

Addifon's Cato. The fubject of this Tragedy is, 

the death of Cato; and a very noble perfonage 

13 Caw 


Cato is, and fupported by the Author with much L E c T * 
dignity. But all the love fcenes in the Play; the 
pafTion of Cato's two Tons for Lucia, and that of 
Juba for Cato's daughter, are mere Epifodes ; 
have no connection with the principal action, and 
no effect upon it. The Author thought his fub- 
jecT too barren in incidents, and in order to diver- 
fify it, he has given us, as it were, by the bye, a. 
hiftorv of the amours that were going on in Cato's 
family; by which he hath both broken the unity 
of his fubject, and formed a very unfeaibnable 
junction of gallantry, with the high fentiments, 
and public-fpirited pallians which predominate in 
other parts, and which the Play was chiefly de- 
figned to difplay. 

We muft take care not to confound the Unity 
of the Action with the Simplicity of the Plot. 
Unity, and Simplicity, import different things in 
Dramatic Comoofidon. The Plot is faid to be 
Simple, when a fmall number of incidents are in- 
troduced into it. But it may be implex, as the 
Critics term it, that is, it may include a confider- 
able number of perfons and events, and yet not be 
deficient in Unity ; provided all the incidents be 
made to tend towards the principal object of the 
Play, and be properly connected with it. All the 
Greek Tragedies not only maintain Unity in the. 
Action, but are remarkably Simple in the Plot; 
to fuch a degree, indeed, as fometimes to appear 
to us too naked, and deftitute of interefting events. 



In the GEdipus Coloneus, for inftance, of So- 
phocles, the whole fubject is no more than this : 
CEdipus, blind and miferable, wanders to Athens, 
and wifhes to die there; Creon, and his fon 
Folynices, arrive at the fame time, and endea- 
vour, feparately, to perluade the old man to return 
to Thebes, each with a view to his own intereft j 
he will not go; Thefeus, the King of Athens, pro- 
tects him; and the Play ends with his death. In 
the Philoctetes of the fame Author, the Plot, or 
Fable, is nothing more than UlyfTes and the fon of 
Achilles, ftudying to perfuade the difeafed Philoc- 
tetes to leave his uninhabited ifland, and go with 
them to Troy; which he refufes to do, till Her- 
cules, whofe arrows he poffefTed, defcends from 
Heaven and commands him. Yet thefe fimple, 
and feemingly barren fubjects, are wrought up with 
fo much art by Sophocles, as to become very tender 
and affecting. 

Among the Moderns, much greater variety of 
events has been admitted into Tragedy. It has 
become more the theatre of paflion than it was 
among the Antients; A greater difplay of cha- 
racters is attempted ; more intrigue and action 
are carried on; our curiofity is more awakened, 
and more interesting fituations aiife. This variety 
is, upon the whole, an improvement on Tragedy; 
it renders the encertainment both more animated 
and more instructive ; and when kept within due 
bounds, may be perfectly confident with Unity of 



fubiect. But the Poet muft, at the fame time, be- L f ^ T - 
ware of not deviating too far from Simplicity in 
the confirmation of his Fable. For if he over- 
charges it with Action and Intrigue, it becomes 
perplexed and embarrafied; and, by confequence, 
lofes much of its efFedt. Congreve's <c Mourning 
<c Bride," a Tragedy otherwife far from being 
void of merit, fails in this refpect; and may be 
given as an inftance of one ftanding in perfect op- 
position to the fimplicity of the antient Plots. 
The incidents fucceed one another too rapidly. 
The Play is too full of bufinefs. It is difficult 
for the mind to follow and comprehend the whole 
feries of events j and, what is the greateft fault of 
all, the cataftrophe, which ought always to be plain 
and fimple, is brought about in a manner too ar- 
tificial and intricate. 

Unity of Action muft not only be ftudied in 
the general confiruction of the Fable, or Plot, 
but muft regulate the feveral acts and fcenes, into 
which the Play is divided. 

The divifion of every Play, into five Acts, has 
no other foundation than common practice, and 
the authority of Horace : 

Neve minor, neu fit quiiato productior a£tu 

Fabula. De Arte Poet.* 

If you would have your Play deferve fuccefs, 

Give it five Acts complete, nor more, nor lefs. Fr a wcis. 



l e c t. It is a divifion purely arbitrary. There is nothing 
in the nature of the Competition which fixes this 
number rather than any other j and it had been 
much better if no fuch number had been afcer- 
tained, but every Play had been allowed to divide 
itfelf into as many parts, or intervals, as the fub- 
ject naturally pointed out. On the Greek Stage, 
whatever may have been the cafe on the Roman, 
the divifion by Acts was totally unknown. The 
word, Act, never once occurs in Ariftotle's Poetics, 
in which he defines exactly every part of the Drama, 
and divides it into the beginning, the middle, and 
the end j or, in his own words, into the Prologue, 
the Epifode, and the Exode. The Greek Tragedy 
was, indeed, one continued reprefentation, from 
beginning to end. The Stage was never empty, 
nor the curtain let fall. But, at certain intervals, 
when the Aclors retired, the Chorus continued 
and fung. Neither do thefe Songs of the Chorus 
divide the Greek Tragedies into five portions, 
fimilar to our Adts; though fome of the Com- 
mentators have endeavoured to force them into 
this office. But it is plain, that the intervals at 
which the Chorus lung, are extremely unequal and 
irregular, iuited to the occafion and the fubjecl; 
and would divide the Play fometimes into three, 
fometimes into feven or eight Acts*. 

As practice has now eftablifhed a different plan 
on the Modern Stage, has divided every Play into 

* See the Difiertation prefixed to Franklin's Tranflation of 



live Acts, and made a total paufe in the repre- L E c T - 
fentation at the end of each Aft, the Poet muft >„ .^uj 
be careful that this Paufe fhall fall in a proper 
place i where there is a natural paufe in the Action ; 
and where, if the imagination has any thing to 
fupply, that is rot reprefented on the Stage, it may 
be fuppofed to have been tranfafted during the in- 

The Firft Aft ought to contain a clear expofi- 
tion of the fubjeft. It ought to be fo managed as 
to awaken the curiofity of the Spectators ; and, at 
the fame time, to furnim them with materials for 
underftanding the fequel. It mould make them 
acquainted with the perfonages who are to appear, 
with their feveral views and interefts, and with the 
fituation of affairs at the time when the Play com- 
mences. A ftriking Introduction, fuch as the 
firft Speech of Almeria, in the Mourning Bride, 
and that of Lady Randolph, in Douglas, pro- 
duces a happy effect; but this is what the fubject 
will not always admit. In the ruder times of 
Dramatic Writing, the expofition of the fubject 
was wont to be made by a Prologue, or by a 
fingle Actor appearing, and giving full and direct 
information to the Spectators. Some of iEfchy- 
lus's and Euripides's Plays are opened in this man- 
ner. But fuch an Introduction is extremely inar- 
tificial, and therefore is now totally abolimed, and 
the fubject made to open itfelf by converfation, 
vol, in. u among 


L xlv T ' amon S f ^ e && Actors who are brought upon the 
*- — » - - > Stage. 

During the courfe of the Drama, in the Se- 
cond, Third, and Fourth Acts, the Plot fhould 
gradually thicken. The great object which the 
Poet ought here to have in view, is, by interefting 
us in his ftory, to keep our paflions always awake. 
As foon as he allows us to languilh, there is no 
more tragic merit. He fhould, therefore, intro- 
duce no perfonages but fuch as are neceffary for 
carrying on the action. He fhould contrive to 
place thofe whom he finds it proper to introduce, 
in the moft interefting fituations. He fhould have 
no fcenes of idle converfation, or mere declama- 
tion. The Action of the Play ought to be al- 
ways advancing; and, as it advances, the fufpenfe, 
and the concern of the Spectators, to be raifed 
more and more. This is the great excellency of 
Shakeipeare, that his fcenes are full of Sentiment 
and Action, never of mere difcourfe; whereas, it 
is often a fault of the belt French Tragedians, 
that they allow the Action to languifh for the fake 
of a long and artful Dialogue. Sentiment, Paf- 
fion, Pity, and Terror, fhould reign throughout a 
Tragedy. Every thing fhould be full of move- 
ments. An ulelefs incident, or an unneceffary 
converfation, weakens the intereft which we take 
in the Action, and rentiers us cold and inattentive. 



The Fifth Act is the feat of the Cataftrophe, 
or the unravelling of the Plot, in which we al- 
ways expect the art and genius of the Poet to be 
mod fully difplayed. The firft rule concerning 
it, is, that it be brought about by probable and na- 
tural means. Hence all unravellings which turn 
upon difguifed habits, rencounters by night, mif- 
takes of one perfon for another, and other fuch. 
Theatrical and Romantic circumftances, are to 
be condemned as faulty. In the next place, the 
Cataftrophe ought always to be fimplej to depend 
on few events, and to include but few perfons. 
Paffion never rifes lo high when it is divided among 
many objects, as when it is directed towards one, 
or a few. And it is ftill more checked, if the in- 
cidents be fo complex and intricate, that the un- 
derstanding is put on the flretch to trace them, 
when the heart fhould be wholly delivered up to 
emotion. The Cataftrophe of the Mourning Bride, 
as I formerly hinted, offends againft both thefe 
rules. In the laft place, the Cataftrophe of a Tra- 
gedy ought to be the reign of pure fentiment and 
paffion. In proportion as it approaches, every 
thing fhould warm and glow. No longdifcourfesi 
no cold reafonings; no parade of genius, in the 
midft of thofe folemn and awful events, that clofe 
fome of the great revolutions of human fortune* 
There, if any where, the Poet muft be fimplc, fe- 
rious, pathetic; and fpeak no language but that of 



•l j c T. The Antients were fond of unravellings, which 
t« — v «— ^j turned upon what is called, an cf Anagnorifis," or, 
a difcovery of fome perfon to be different from 
what he was taken- to be. When fuch difcoveries 
are artfully conducted, and produced in critical 
fituations, they are extremely linking; fuch as that 
famous one in Sophocles, which makes the whole 
fubjecl of his CEdipus Tyrannus, and which is, un- 
doubtedly, the fulleft of fufpence, agitation, and 
terror, that ever was exhibited on any Stage. Among 
the Moderns, two of the moft diftinguifhed Ana- 
gnorifes, are thole contained in Voltaire's Merope, 
and Mr. Home's Douglas: both of which are 
great mafter-pieces of the kind. 

It is not eflential to the Cataftrophe of a Tra- 
gedy, that it mould end unhappily. In the courfe 
of the Play there may be fufficient agitation and 
diftrefs, and many tender emotions raifed by the 
fufferings and dangers of the virtuous, though, in 
the end, good men are rendered fuccefsful. The 
Tragic Spirit, therefore, does not want fcope upon 
this fyftem; and, accordingly, the Athalie of Ra- 
cine, and fome of Voltaire's fined Plays, fuch as 
Alzire, Merope, and the Orphan of China, with 
fome few Englim Tragedies likewife, have a 
fortunate conclufion. But, in general, the fpirit 
of Tragedy, efpecially of Englifh Tragedy, leans 
more to the fide of leaving the impreffion of virtu- 
ous forrow full and ftrong upon the heart. 



A question, intimately connected with this 
fubject, and which has employed the fpeculations 
of feveral philofophical Critics, naturally occurs 
here : How it comes to pafs that thofe emotions of 
forrow which Tragedy excites, afford any gratifi- 
cation to the mind? For, is not forrow, in its 
nature, a painful paffion? Is not real diftrefs often 
occafioned to the Spectators, by the Dramatic 
Reprefentations at which they affift? Do we not 
fee their tears flow ? and yet, while the impreffion 
of what they have fuffered remains upon their 
minds, they again alfemble in crowds, to renew 
the fame diftreffes. The queftion is not without 
difficulty, and various folutions of it have been 
propofed by ingenious men*. The mod plain 
and fatisfactory account of the matter, appears to 
me to be the following. By the wife and gracious 
conftitution of our nature, the exercife of all the 
focial paffions is attended with pleafure. Nothing 
is more pleafing and grateful, than love and friend- 
fhip. Wherever man takes a ftrong intereft in the 
concerns of his fellow- creatures, an internal fatis- 
faction is made to accompany the feeling. Pity, 
or companion, in particular, is, for wife ends, 

* See Dr. Campbell's Philofophy of Rhetoric, Book I. ch. xi. 
where an account is given of the hypothefes of different Critics 
on this fubjedt; and where one is propofed, with which, in the 
main, I agree. — See alfo Lord Kaimes'e Eflays on the Prin- 
ciples of Morality, Eflay I. And Mr. David Hume's Eflay on 

u 3 appointed 


1 x rC v T " a PP°^ ntec ^ t0 be one °f tne ftrongeft inftincts of our 
frame, and is attended with a peculiar attractive 
power. It is an affection which cannot but be 
productive of fome diftrefs, on account of the fym- 
pathy with the fufferers, which it neccffarily in- 
volves. But, as it includes benevolence and friend- 
fhip, it partakes, at the fame time, of the agreeable 
and pleafing nature of thofe affections. The heart 
is warmed by kindnefs and humanity, at the fame 
moment at which it is afflicted by the diftrefies of 
thofe with whom it fympathifes: and the pleafire 
arifing from thofe kind emotions, prevails fo much 
in the mixture, and fo far counterbalances the 
pain, as to render the ftate of the mind, upon the 
whole, agreeable. Ac the fame time, the imme- 
diate pleafure, which always goes along with the 
operation of the benevolent and fympathetic affec- 
tions, derives an addition from the approbation of 
our own minds. We are pleafed with ourfelves, 
for feeling as we ought, and for entering, with 
proper forrow, into the concerns of the afflicted. 
In Tragedy, befides, other adventitious circum-- 
ftances concur to diminifh the painful part of 
Sympathy, and to increafe the fatisfaction attending 
it. We are, in fome meafure, relieved, by think- 
ing that the caufe of our diftrefs is feigned, not 
real; and we are alfo gratified by the charms 
of Poetry, the propriety of Sentiment and Lan- 
guage, and the beauty of Action. From the con- 
currence of thefe cauies, the pleafure which we re- 
ceive from Tragedy, notwithstanding the diftrefs it 



oceafions, feems to me to be accounted for in a 
fatisfactory manner. At the fame time, it is to be 
obferved, that, as there is always a mixture of pain 
in the pleafure, that pain is capable of being fo 
much heightened, by the reprefentation of incidents 
extremely direful, as to mock our feelings, and to 
render us averie, either to the reading of fuch Tra- 
gedies, or to the beholding »of them upon the* 

Having now fpoken of the conduct of the fub- 
ject throughout the Acts, it is alfo neceffary to 
take notice of the conduct of the feveral Scenes 
which make up the Acts of a Play. 

The entrance of a new perfonage upon the 
Stage, forms, what is called, a New Scene. Thefe 
Scenes, or fucceffive converfations, mould be 
clofely linked and connected with each other; and 
much of the Art of Dramatic Compofition is 
fnown in maintaining this connection. Two rules 
are neceffary to be obferved for this purpofe. 

The firft is, that, during the courfe of one Act, 
the Stage mould never be left vacant, though but 
for a fingle moment r that is, all the perfons who 
have appeared in one Scene, or converfation, 
mould never go off together, and be fucceeded by 
a new fet of perfons appearing in the next Scene, 
independent of the former. This makes a gap, or 
total interruption in the reprefentation, which, in 

u 4 effect* 


L xlv T ' C ^ e ^j P ms an en d to t ' iat Aft. For, wherever 
the Stage is evacuated, the Act is clofed. This 
rule is, very generally, obferved by the French 
Tragedians j but the Englifh Writers, both of 
Comedy and Tragedy, feldom pay any regard to 
it. Their perfonages fucceed one another upon 
the Stage with fo little connection; the union of 
their Scenes is (o much broken, that, with equal 
propriety, their Plays might be divided into ten or 
twelve Acts, as into five. 

The fecond rule, which the Englifh Writers 
2lfo obferve little better than the former, is, that 
no per Ion mould come upon the Stage or leave it, 
without a reafon appearing to us, both for the one 
and the other. Nothing is more awkward, and 
contrary to art, than for an Actor to enter, without 
our feeing any caufe for his appearing in that 
Scene, except that it was for the Poet's purpofe he 
fhould enter precifely, at fuch a moment; or for an 
Actor to go away without any reafon for his re- 
tiring, farther than that the Poet had no more 
fpeeches to put into his mouth. This is managing 
the Perfonas Dramatis exactly like fo many puppets, 
who are moved by wires, to anlwer the call of the 
matters of the fhow. Whereas the perfection of 
Dramatic Writing requires that every thing fhould 
be conducted in imitation, as near as poflible, of 
fome real tranfaclion; where we are let into the 
fecret of all that is paffing, where we behold 
perfons before us always bufyj fee them coming 



and going; and know perfectly whence they come, L £ L $ T ' 
and whither they go, and about what they are em- 

All that I have hitherto faid, relates to the 
Unity of the Dramatic Action. In order to render 
the Unity of Action more complete, Critics have 
added the other two Unities of Time and Place. 
The ft rift obfervance of thefe is more difficult, 
and, perhaps, not fo neceffary. The Unity of 
Place requires, that the Scene mould never be 
fhifted; but that the Action of the Play fhould be 
continued to the end, in the fame place where it is 
fuppofed to begin. The Unity of Time, ftriftly 
taken, requires, that the time of the Action be no 
longer than the time that is allowed for the Repre- 
fentation of the Play; though Ariftode feems to 
have given the Poet a little more liberty, and per- 
mitted the action to comprehend the whole time of 
one day. 

The .intention of both thefe rules is, to over- 
charge, as little as poffible, the imagination of the 
Spectators with improbable circumftances in the 
acting of the Play, and to bring the imitation more 
clofe to reality. We muft obfei ve, that the nature 
of Dramatic Exhibitions upon the Greek Stage, 
fubjected the Antient Tragedians to a more ftrict 
obfervance of thefe Unities than is neceflary in 
Modern theatres. I mowed, that a Greek Tragedy 
ivas one uninterrupted reprefentation, from begin- 


L xi v T * ™ n S t0 enc ^' There was no divifion of Acts; no 
pauies or interval between them; but the Stage was 
continually full; occupied either by the Actors, or 
the Chorus. Hence, no room was left for the 
imagination to go beyond the precife time and 
place of the reprefentation; any more than is 
allowed during the continuance of one Aft, on the 
Modern Theatre. 

But the practice of fufpending the fpectacle 
totally for fome little time between the Acts, has 
made a great and material change; gives more 
latitude to the imagination, and renders the antient 
Rriffc confinement to time and place lefs necefTary. 
While the acting of the Play is interrupted, the 
Spectator can, without any great or violent effort, 
fuppofe a few hours to pafs between every Act; or 
can fuppofe himfelf moved from one apartment of 
a palace, or one part of a city to another: and, 
therefore^ too drift an obfervance of thefe Unities, 
ought not to be preferred to higher beauties of exe- 
cution, nor to the introduction of more pathetic 
fituations, which fometimes cannot be accomplifhed 
in any other way, than by the tranfgreffion of thefe 

On the Antient Stage, we plainly fee the Poets 
flruggling with many an inconvenience, in order to 
preferve thofe Unities which were then fo necefTary. 
As the Scene could never be fhiftecJ, they were 
obliged to make it always lie in fome court of a 




palace, or fome public area, to which all the L E c T - 
perfons concerned in the action might have equal 
accefs. This led to frequent improbabilities, by re- 
prefenting things as tranfacted there, which natu- 
rally ought to have been tranfacted before few 
witneffes, and in private apartments. Tne like 
improbabilities aroie, from limiting themfelves io 
much in point of time. Incidents were unnatu- 
rally crowded; and it is eafy to point out feveral 
inftances in the Greek Tragedies, where events are 
fuppofed to pafs during a Song of the Chorus, 
which muft neceffarily have employed many hours. 

But though it feems neceflary to kt Modern 
Poets free from a Uriel: obfervance of thefe Dra- 
matic Unities, yet we muft remember there are 
certain bounds to this liberty. Frequent and wild 
changes of time and place; hurrying the Spectator 
from one diftant city, or country, to another; or 
making feveral days or weeks to pafs during the 
courfe of the Reprefentation, are liberties which 
fhock the imagination, which give to the perform- 
ance a romantic and unnatural appearance, and, 
therefore, cannot be allowed in any Dramatic 
Writer, who afpires to correctnefs. In particular, 
we muft remember, that it is only between the 
Acts, that any liberty can be given for going 
beyond the Unities of Time and Place. During 
the courfe of each Act, they ought to be ftnctly 
obferved; that is, during each Act the Scene mould 
continue the fame, and no more time mould be 


3 oo TRAGEDY. 

fuppofed to pafs, than is employed in the reprefen- 
tation of that Act. This is a rule which the 
French Tragedians regularly obferve. To violate 
this rule, as is too often done by the Engliih; to 
change the Place, and fhift the Scene, in the midil 
of one Act, mows great incorrectnefs, and deftroys 
the whole intention of the divifion of a Play into 
Acts. Mr. Addifon's Cato is remarkable beyond 
moft Englifh Tragedies, for regularity of conduct. 
The Author has limited himfelf in time, to a 
fmgle day; and in place, has maintained the molt 
rigorous Unity. The Scene is never changed; 
and the whole action partes in the hall of Cato's 
houie, at Utica. 

In general, the nearer a Poet can bring the 
Dramatic Reprefentation, in all its circumftances, 
to an imitation of nature and real life, the impref- 
fion which he makej on us will always be the more 
perfect. Probability, as I obferved at the begin- 
ning of the Lecture, is highly efTential to the con- 
duct of the Tragic action, and we are always hurt 
by the want of it. It is this that makes the obfer- 
vance of the Dramatic Unities to be of confe- 
quence, as far as they can be obferved, without 
facrificing more material beauties. It is not, as 
has been fometimes faid, that by the prefervation 
of the Unities of Time and Place, Spectators are 
deceived into a belief of the reality of the objects 
which are fet before them on the Stage; and that, 
when thofe Unities are violated, the charm is 



broken, and they difcover the whole to be a fiction. 
No fuch deception as this can ever be accomplifhed. 
No one ever imagines himfelf to be at Athens, or 
Rome, when a Greek or Roman iubject ispre- 
fented on the Stage. He knows the whole to be 
an imitation only; but he requires that imitation to 
be conducted with fkill and verifimilitude. His 
pleafure, the entertainment which he expects, the 
intereft which he is to take in the Story, all depend 
on its being fo conducted. His imagination, 
therefore, feeks to aid the imitation, and to reft on 
the probability; and the Poet, who fhocks him by 
improbable circumftances, and by awkward, un- 
fkilful imitation, deprives him of his pleafure, and 
leaves him hurt and difpleafed. This is the whole 
myftery of the theatrical illufion. 




h e c t. TTaving treated of the Dramatic A6lion in Tra- 
gedy, I proceed next to treat of the Cha- 
racters moil proper to be exhibited. It has been 
thought, by feveral Critics, that the nature of Tra- 
gedy requires the principal perfonages to be always 
of illufbrious character, and of high, or princely 
rank; whofe misfortunes and fufferings, it is faid* 
take fader hold of the imagination, and imprefs the 
heart more forcibly than fimilar events happening 
to perfons in private life. But this re more fpe- 
cious than loiid. It is refuted by facts. For the 
diftreffes of Defdemona, Monimia, and Belvidera P 
intereft us as deeply as if they had been princeffes 
or queens. The dignity of Tragedy does, indeed, 
require, that there mould be nothing degrading or 
mean, in the circumftances of the perfons which it 
exhibits-, but it requires nothing more. Their high 
rank may render the fpectacle more fplendid, and 
the fubject feemingly of more importance, but 
9 conduces 


conduces very little to its being interefting Or L x L vi. T * 
pathetic; which depends entirely on the nature of * — ^— J 
the Tale, on the art of the Poet in conducting it, 
and on the fentiments to which it gives occafion. 
In every rank of life, the relations of Father, 
Hu/band, Son, Brother, Lover, or Friend, lay the 
foundation of thofe affecting fituations, which make 
man's heart feel for man. 

The moral characters of the perfons reprefented, 
are of much greater confluence than the external 
circumftances in which the Poet places them. 
Nothing, indeed, in the conduct of Tragedy de- 
mands a Poet's attention more, than fo to defcribc 
his perfonages, and fo to order the incidents which 
relate to them, as fhall leave upon the Spectators, 
impreflions favourable to virtue, and to the admi- 
n iteration of Providence. It is not neceflary, for 
this end, that poetical juftice, as it is called, fhould 
be obferved in the cataftrophe of the Piece. This 
has been long exploded from Tragedy; the end of 
which is, to affect us with pity for the virtuous 
in diftrefs, and to afford a probable reprefentation 
of the lute of human life, where calamities often 
befal the beft, and a mixed portion of good and 
evil is appointed for all. But, withal, the Author 
mud: beware of (hocking; our minds with fuch re- 
prefentations of life as tend to raife horror, or 
to render virtue an object of averlion. Though 
innocent perfons fuffer, their furferings ought to 
be attended with fuch circumftances^ as fhall make 




l ?. . r t. virtue appear amiable and venerable; and fhall 

XL VI. . 

s_ - y - '_. render their condition, on the whole, preferable to 
that of bad men, who have prevailed againft them. 
The ftings and the remorfe of guilt, mud ever be 
reprefented as productive of greater miferies, than 
any that the bad can bring upon the good. 

Aristotle's obfervations on the characters pro- 
per for Tragedy, are very judicious. He is of 
opinion, that perfect unmixed characters, either of 
good or ill men, are not the fitted to be introduced. 
The diltreffes of the one being wholly unmerited, 
hurt and fhock us; and the fufferings of the other, 
occafion no pity. Mixed characters, fuch as in 
fact we meet with in the world, afford the mod 
proper field for difplaying, without any bad effect 
on morals, the viciffitudes of life; and they intereft 
us the more deeply, as they difplay emotions and 
paffions which we have all been confeious of. 
When fuch perfons fall into diitrefs through the 
vices of others, the fubject may be very pathetic; 
but it is always more inftructive, when a perfon has 
been himfelf the caufe of his misfortune, and when 
his misfortune is occafioned by the violence of 
paffion, or by fome weaknefs incident to human 
nature. Such fubjects both difpofe us to the 
deeped fympathy, and adminifter ufeful warnings 
to us for our own conduct:. 

Upon thefe principles, it furprifes me that the 

itory of GSdipus fhould have been fo much cele- 

11 brated 

T R. A G E D Y. 305 

brated by all the Critics, as one of the fitted Tub- L 3 T ^ r T - 

1 ' XLVI. 

jects for Tragedy ; and fo often brought upon the 
Stage, not by Sophocles only, but by Corneille alfo, 
and Voltaire. An innocent perfon, one, in the 
main, of a virtuous character, through no crime of 
his own, nay not by the vices of others, but 
through mere fatality and blind chance, is involved 
in the greateft of all human miferies. In a cafual 
rencounter, he kills his father, without knowing 
him j he afterwards is married to his own mother; 
and/ difcovering himfelf in the end to have com- 
mitted both parricide and inceft, he becomes fran- 
tic, and dies in the utmoft mifery. Such a fubje£t 
excites horror rather than pity. As it is conducted 
by Sophocles, it is indeed extremely affecting; but 
it conveys no inftruction ; it awakens in the mind 
no tender fympathy; it leaves no impreffion fa- 
vourable to virtue or humanity. 

It muft be acknowledged, that the fubjects of 
the antient Greek Tragedies were too often found- 
ed on mere deftiny, and inevitable misfortunes. 
They were too much mixed with their tales about 
oracles, and the vengeance of the Gods, which led 
to many an incident fufficiently melancholy and tra- 
gical; but rather purely tragical, than ufeful or 
moral. Hence, both the GEdipus's of Sophocles, 
the Iphigenia in Aulis, the Hecuba of Euripides, 
and feveral of the like kind. In the courfe of the 
Drama, many moral fentiments occurred. But 
the inftruction, which the Fable of the Play con- 

vol. in. x veyedj 

306 TRACED Y. 

L xlvi T ' vc y e ^> Seldom was any more, than that reverence 
was owing to the Gods, and fubmifllon due to the 
decrees of Deftiny. Modern Tragedy has aimed 
at a higher object, by becoming more the theatre 
of pafTion; pointing out to men the confequences 
of their own mifconduct; fhowing the direful ef- 
fects which ambition, jealoufy, love, refentment, 
■and other fuch ftrong emotions, when mifguided, 
or left unreflrained, produce upon human life. An 
Othello, hurried by jealoufy to murder his innocent 
wife j a JafTier, enfnared by refentment and want, 
to engage in a confpiracy, and then flung with re- 
morfe, and involved in ruin; a SirJredi, through 
the deceit which he employs for public-fpirited 
ends, bringing deftruction on all whom he loved; 
a Califta, feduced into a criminal intrigue, which 
overwhelms herfelf, her father, and all her friends 
in mifery; thefe, and fuch as thefe, are the ex- 
amples which Tragedy now difplays to public view; 
and by means of which, it inculcates on men the 
proper government of their pafllons. 

Of all the pafllons which furnifh matter to Tra- 
gedy, that which has mod occupied the Modern 
Stage, is Love. To the Antient Theatre, it was 
in a manner wholly unknown. In few of their 
Tragedies is it ever mentioned; and 1 remember 
no more than one which turns upon it, the Hip- 
politus of Euripides. This was owing to the na- 
tional manners of the Greeks, and to that greater 
reparation of the two fexes from one another, than 



has taken place in modern times ; aided too, per- 
haps, by this circumftance, that no female actors 
ever appeared on the Antient Stage. But though 
no reafon appears for the total exclufion of love from 
the Theatre, yet with what juftice or propriety it 
has ufurped fo much place, as to be in a manner 
the fole hinge of Modern Tragedy, may be much 
queftioned. Voltaire, who is no lefs eminent as a 
Critic than as a Poet, declares loudly and ftrongly 
againft this predominancy of Love, as both de- 
grading the majefty, and confining the natural li- 
mits of Tragedy. And affuredly, the mixing of 
it perpetually with all the great and folemn revolu- 
tions of human fortune which belong to the Tra- 
gic Stage, tends to give Tragedy too much the air 
of gallantry, and juvenile entertainment. The 
Athalie of Racine, the Merope of Voltaire, the 
Douglas of Mr. Home, are fufficient proofs, that 
without any affiftance from Love, the Drama is 
capable of producing its higheft effects upon the 

This feems to be clear, that wherever Love is 
introduced into Tragedy, it ought to reign in it, 
and to give rife to the principal action. It ought 
to be that fort of Love which poffeffes all the force 
and majefty of paffionj and which occafions great 
and important confequences. For nothing can 
have a worfe effect, or be more debafing to Tra- 
gedy, than, together with the manly and heroic 
paffions, to mingle a trifling love intrigue, as a fort 

x 2 of 

3c8 T R A G E D Yt 

of feafoning to the Play. The bad effects of this 
are fufficiently confpicuous both in the Cato of Mr. 
Addifon, as I had occafion before to remark, and 
in the Iphigenie of Racine. 

After a Tragic Poet has arranged his fubject, 
and chofen his perfonages, the next thing he muft 
attend to, is the propriety of fentiments ; that they 
be perfectly fuited to the characters of thofe per- 
fons to whom they are attributed, and to the fitua- 
tions in which they are placed. The neceffity of 
obferving this general rule is fo obvious, that I 
need not infifr. upon it. It is principally in the pa- 
thetic parts, that both the difficulty and the im- 
portance of it are the greateft. Tragedy is the re- 
gion of pafTion. We come to it, expecting to be 
moved; and let the Poet be ever fo judicious in his 
conduct, moral in his intentions, and elegant in his 
Style, yet if he fails in the pathetic, he has no tragic 
merit, we return cold and difappointed from the per- 
formance, and never defire to meet with it more. 

To paint PafTion fo truly and juftly as to ftrike 
the hearts of the hearers with full fympathy, is a 
prerogativeofgeniusgiventofew. It requires ftrong 
and ardent fenfibility of mind. It requires the 
Author to have the power of entering deeply into 
the characters which he draws j of becoming for a 
moment the very perfon whom he exhibits, and 
of affu mi ng all his feelings. For, as I have often 
had occafion to obferve, there is no poflibility of 



fpeaking properly the language of any paflion, l e c t. 
without feeling itj and it is to the abfenceor dead- - 

nefs of real emotion, that we muft afcribe the want 
of fuccefs in fo many Tragic Writers, when they 
attempt being pathetic. 

No man, for inftance, when he is under the 
ftrong agitations of anger, or grief, or any fuch 
violent paflion, ever thinks of defcribing to an- 
other what his feelings at that time are; or of tell- 
ing them what he refembles. This never was, 
and never will be, the language of any perfon, when 
he is deeply moved. It is the language of one 
who defcribes coolly the condition of that perfon 
to another j or it is the language of the pafiionate 
perfon himfelf, after his emotion has fubfided, re- 
lating what his fituation was in the moments of 
paflion. Yet this fort of fecondary defcription, is 
what Tragic Poets too often give us, inftead of the 
native and primary language of paflion. Thus, in 
Mr. Addifon's Cato, when Lucia confefTes to Por- 
tius her love for him, but, at the fame time, fwears 
with the greater! folemnity, that in the prefent fitua- 
tion of their country (he will never marry him; 
Portius receives this unexpected fentence with the 
utmoft aftonifhment and grief; at lead the Poet 
wants to make us believe that he fo received it. 
How does he exprefs thefe feelings? 

Fix'd in aftonifhment, I gaze upon thee, 
Like one juft blafted by a ftroke from Heav'n, 

x 7 Who 

3 io TRAGEDY. 

L xi vr T * Who pants for breath, and ftiffens yet alive 

In dreadful looks ; a monument of wrath. 

This makes his whole reply to Lucia. Now did 
any perfon, who was of a fudden aftonifhcd and 
overwhelmed with forrow, ever, fince the creation 
of the world, exprefs himfelf in this manner ? This 
is indeed an excellent defcription to be given us by 
another, of a perfon who was in fuch a (ituation. 
Nothing would have been more proper for a by- 
(tander, recounting this conference, than to have faid, 

Fix'd in aftonifhment, he gaz'd upon her, 
Like one juft blafted by a ftroke ftom Heav'n, 
Who pants for breath, &e. 

But the perfon, who is himfelf concerned, fpeaks, 
on fuch an occafion, in a very different manner. 
He gives vent to his feelings* he pleads for pity; 
he dwells upon the caufe of his grief and aftonifh- 
ment; but never thinks of defcribiftg his own per- 
fon and looks, and mowing us, by a fimile, what 
he refembles. Such reprefentations of paffions are 
no better in Poetry, than it would be in painting, 
to make a label iffue from the mouth of a figure 
bidding us remark, that this figure reprefents an 
afhonifhed, or a grieved perfon. 

On fome other occafions, when Poets do not 
employ this fort of defcriptive language in paffion, 
they are too apt to run into forced and unnatural 
thoughts, in order to exaggerate the feelings of 



perfons, whom they would paint as very ftrongly l e e t. 

moved. When Ofmyn, in the Mourning Bride, ■_ . ^ - f 

after parting with Almeria, regrets, in a long fo- 

liloquy, that his eyes only fee objects that are pre- 

fenr, and cannot fee Almeria after (he is gone; 

when Jane Shore, in Mr. Rowe's Tragedy, on 

meeting with her hufband in her extreme diftrefs, 

and finding that he had forgiven her, calls on the 

rains to give her their drops, and the fprings to 

give her their ftreams, that (lie may never want a 

fupply of tears; in fuch pailiges, we fee very 

plainly, that it is neither Ofmyn, nor Jane Shore, 

that fpeak ; but the Poet himfclf in his own perfon, 

who, inftead of aduming the feelings of thofe whom 

he means to exhibit, and fpeaking as they would 

have done in fuch fituations, is ftraining his fancy, 

and fpurring up his genius to fay fomething that 

fhall be uncommonly ftrong and lively. 

If we attend to the language that is fpoken by 
perfons under the influence of real pafiion, we fhall 
find it always plain and fimple; abounding indeed 
with thofe figures which exprefs a difturbed and 
impetuous ftate of mind, fuch as interrogations, 
exclamations, and apoftrophes; but never employ- 
ing thofe which belong to the mere embellifhment 
and parade of Speech. We never meet with any 
fubtilty or refinement, in the fentiments of real paf- 
fion. The thoughts which paffion fuggefts, are al- 
ways plain and obvious ones, arifing directly from 
its object. Pafiion never reafons, nor fpeculates, 
till its ardour begins to cool. It never leads to 
x 4 long 

3 i2 TRAGEDY. 

long difcourfe or declamation. On the contrary, 
it expreflfes itfelf mod commonly in fhort, broken, 
and interrupted Speeches ; correfponding to the 
violent and defultory emotions of the mind. 

When we examine the French Tragedians by 
thefe principles, which feem clearly founded in na- 
ture, we find them ofcen deficient. Though in many 
parts of Tragic Compofkion, they have great me- 
rit; though in exciting foft and tender emotions, 
fome of them are very luecefsful; yet in the high 
and ftrong pathetic, they generally fail. Their paf- 
fionate Speeches too often run into long declama- 
tion. There is too much reafoning and refine- 
ment; too much pomp and ftudied beauty in 
them. They rather convey a feeble impreffion of 
paffion, than awaken any ftrong fympathy in the 
Reader's mind. 

Sophocles and Euripides are much more fuc- 
cefsful in this part of Compofition. In their pa- 
thetic fcenes, we find no unnatural refinement; no 
exaggerated thoughts. They fet before us the 
plain and direct feelings of nature, in fimple expref- 
five language; and therefore, on great occafions, 
they feldom fail of touching the heart*. This too 


* Nothing, for inftance, can be more touching and pathetic 
than the addrefs which Medea, in Euripides, makes to her 
children, when fhe had formed the refolution of putting them 
to death; and nothing more natural, than the conflict which fhe 
is defcribed as fuffering within herfelf on that occafion ; 

Qtv 3 


is Shakefpeare's great excellency ; and to this it is l e £ t - 
principally owing, that his dramatic productions, < — ^- ,t 
notwithstanding their many imperfections, have 
been fo long the favourites of the Public. He is 
more faithful to the true language of Nature, in the 
midft of paffion, than any Writer. He gives us this 
language, unadulterated by art; and more inftances 
of it can be quoted from him than from all other 
Tragic Poets taken together. I (hall refer only to 
that admirable fcene in Macbeth, where Macduff 
receives the account of his wife and all his children 
being flaughtered in his abfence. The emotions, 
firft of grief, and then of the moft fierce refentment 
rifing againft Macbeth, are painted in fuch a man- 
ner that there is no heart but muft feel them, and 
no fancy can conceive any thing more expreffive of 

With regard to moral fentiments and reflections 

in Tragedies, it is clear that they muft not recur 

too often. They lofe their effect, when unfeaibn- 

ably crowded. They render the Play pedantic and 

declamatory. This is remarkably the cafe with 

thofe Latin Tragedies which go under the name of 

Seneca, which are little more than a collection of 

declamations and moral fentences, wrought up with 

Tt isfoayiKctti rev tsuvvrotTov yiXtiv ; 
Ai, at* t» o^ctau ; xap^ia yap oip^sTai* 
Tvvcay.ic, hppw. (paic^ov u<; hSov tixvuv 
Qvk ut avvctipyv* x/MfiTu ^aKiv^xrciy &C. 

Eur. Med. L. 1040. 
a quaint 


L E C T. 

a quaint brilliancy, which fuited the prevailing tafte 
of that age. 

o y 

I am not, however, of opinion, that moral re- 
flections ought to be altogether omitted in Tra- 
gedies. When properly introduced, they give dig- 
nity to the Coiupofition, and, on many occafions, 
they are extremely natural. When perfons are 
under any uncommon diftrefs, when they are be- 
holding in others, or experiencing in themfelves, 
the vicidtudes of human fortune j indeed, when 
they are placed in any of the great and trying fixa- 
tions of life, ferious and moral reflections naturally 
occur to them, whether they be perfons of much 
virtue or not. Almoft every human being is, on 
iuch occafions, difpofed to be feiious. It is then 
the natural tone of the mind ; and therefore no Tra- 
gic poet (hould omit fuch proper opportunities, 
when they occur, for favouring the interefts of vir- 
tue. Cardinal Wolfey's foliloquy upon his fall, for 
inftance, in Shakefpeare, when he bids a long fare- 
well to all his greatnefs, and the advices which 
he afterwards gives to Cromwell, are, in his fitua- 
tion, extremely natural ; touch and pleafe all 
Readers; and are at once inftructive and affecting. 
Much of the merit of Mr. Addifon's Cato de- 
pends upon that moral turn of thought which dif- 
tinguifhes it. I have had occafion, both in this 
Lecture and in the preceding one, to take notice 
of fome of its defects -, and certainly neither for 
warmth of paffion nor proper conduct of the 
plot, is it at all eminent. It does not, however, 




follow, that it is deftitute of merit. For, by the l e c t, 

purity and beauty of the language, by the dignity 

of Cato's character, by that ardour of public fpirit, 

and thofe vinuous fentiments of which it is full, it 

has always commanded high regard; and has, both 

in our own country and among foreigners, acquired 

no fmall reputation. 

The Style and Verification of Tragedy ought 
to be free, eafy, and varied. Our blank verfe is 
is happily fuited to this purpofe. It has fuffi- 
cient majefty for raifing the Style ; it can defcend 
to the fimple and familiar; it is fufceptible of great 
variety of cadence; and is quite free from the 
conftraint and monotony of rhyme. For mono- 
tony is, above all things, to be avoided by a Tra- 
gic Poet. If he maintains every where the fame 
ftatelinels of Style, if he uniformly keeps up the 
fame run of meafure and harmony in his Verfe, he 
cannot fail of becoming infipid. He mould not 
indeed fink into flat and carelefs lines; his Style 
fhould always have force and dignity, but not the 
uniform dignity of Epic Poetry. It thould aflume 
that brifknefs and eafe, which is fuited to the free- 
dom of dialogue, and die fluctuations ofpaflion. 

One of the greateft misfortunes of the French 
Tragedy is, its being always written in rhyme. 
The nature of the French language, indeed, re- 
quires this, in order to diftinguifli the Style from 
mere Profe. But it fetters the freedom of the 



L E C T. 

Tragic Dialogue, fills it with a languid monotony, 
and is, in a manner, fatal to the high ftrength and 
power of paffion. Voltaire maintains, that the 
difficulty of compofing in French Rhyme, is one 
great caufe of the pleafure which the Audience re- 
ceives from the Compofition. Tragedy would be 
ruined, fays he, if we were to write it in Blank 
Verfe; take away the difficulty, and you take 
away the whole merit. A ftrange idea I as if the enter- 
tainment of the Audience arofe, not from the emo- 
tions which the Poet is fuccefsful in awakening, but 
from a reflection on the toil which he endured in 
his clofet, from aflbrting male and female Rhymes. 
With regard to thole fplendid comparifons in 
Rhyme, and firings of couplets, with which it 
was, fome time ago, fafhionable for our Englifh 
Poets to conclude, not only every act of a Tra- 
gedy, but fometimes alfo the mod interefting 
Scenes, nothing need be faid, but that they were 
the mod perfect barbarifms; childifh ornaments, 
introduced to pleafe a falie tafte in the Audiences 
and now univerfally laid afide. 

Having thus treated of all the different parts of 
Tragedy, I fhall conclude the fubject, with a fhort 
view of the Greek, the French, and the Englifh 
Stage, and with obfer vations on the principal Writers. 

Most of the diftinguifhing characters of the 

Greek Tragedy have been already occafionally 

mentioned. It was embellifhed with the Lyric 

io Poetry 


Poetry of the Chorus, of the origin of which, and 
of the advantages and difadvantages attending it, 
I treated fully in the preceding Lecture. The 
Plot wis always exceedingly fimple. It admitted 
of few incidents. It was conducted, with a very 
exact regard to the unities of action, time, and place. 
Machinery, or the intervention of the Gods, was 
employed; and, which is very faulty, the final un- 
ravelling fometimes made to turn upon it. Love, 
except in one or two inftances, was never admitted 
into the Greek Tragedy. Their fubjects were 
often founded on deftiny, or inevitable misfortunes. 
A vein of religious and moral fentiment always runs 
through them ; but they made lefs ufe than the 
Moderns of the combat of the pafilons, and of the 
diftreffes which our paffions bring upon us. Their 
Plots were all taken from the antient traditionary 
ftories of their own nation. Hercules furnifhes 
matter for two Tragedies. The hiftory of CEdipus, 
king of Thebes, and his unfortunate family, for fix. 
The war of Troy, with its confequences, for no 
fewer than feventeen. There is only one, of later 
date than this-, which is the Perfae, or expedition 
of Xerxes, by iEfchylus. 

.ZEschylus is the Father of Greek Tragedy, and 
exhibits both the beauties, and the defects, of an 
early original Writer. He is bold, nervous, and 
animated; but very obfcure and difficult to be un- 
derftood; partly by reafon of the incorrect ftate in 
which we have his works (they having fuffered more 



L E C T. 

by time, than any of the Antient Tragedians), and 
partly on account of the nature of his Style, which 
is crowded with metaphors, often harfli and tumid. 
He abounds with martial ideas and delcriptions. 
He has much fire and elevation ; lefs of tendernefs, 
than of force. He delights in the marvel- 
lous. The Ghoft of Darius in the Perfe, the In- 
fpiration of Caffandra in Agamemnon, and the 
Songs of the Furies in the Eumenides, are beau- 
tiful in their kind, and ftrongly expreffive of his 

Sophocles is the moft mafterly of the three 
Greek Tragedians ; the moft correct in the con- 
duct of his fubjects; the moft juft and fublime in 
his fentiments. He is eminent for his defcriptivc 
talent. The relation of the death of CEdipus, 
in his CEdipus Coloneus, and of the death of Hse- 
mon and Antigone, in his Antigone, are perfect 
patterns of defcription to Tragic Poets. Euri- 
pides is efteemed more tender than Sophocles; and 
he is fuller of moral fentiments. But, in the con- 
duct of his plays, he is more incorrect and negli- 
gent; his expofitions, or openings of the fubject, 
are made in a lefs artful manner; and the Songs of 
his Chorus, though remarkably poetical, have, 
commonly, lefs connection with the main action, 
than thofe of Sophocles. Both Euripides and 
Sophocles, however, have very high merit as 
Tragic Poets. They are elegant and beautiful 
in their Style; juft, for the moft part, in their 

thoughts i 




thoughts; they fpeak with the voice of nature: l e c t. 
and, making allowance for the difference ofantient 
and modern ideas, in the midft of all their fimpli- 
city, they are touching and interefting. 

The cireumftances of theatrical reprefentation 
on the ftages of Greece and Rome, were, in fe- 
veral refpe&s, very fingular, and widely different 
from what obtains among us. Not only were the 
Songs of the Chorus accompanied with inflru- 
mental mufic, but as the Abbe du Bos, in his 
Reflections on Poetry and Painting, has proved, 
with much curious erudition, the dialogue part had 
alfo a modulation of its own, which was capable 
of being fet to notes; it was carried on in a fort of 
recitative between the actors, and was fupported 
by inftruments. He has farther attempted to 
prove, but the proof feems more incomplete, that 
on fome occafions, on the Roman ftage, the pro- 
nouncing and gesticulating parts were divided; 
that one actor fpoke, and another performed the 
geftures and motions correfponding to what the firft 
faid. The actors in Tragedy wore a long robe, 
called Syrma, which flowed upon the Stage. 
They were raifed upon Cothurni, which rendered 
their ftature uncommonly high; and they always 
played in mafques. Thefe mafques were like hel- 
mets, which covered the whole head; the mouths 
of them were fo contrived, as to give an artificial 
found to the voice, in order to make it be heard 
over their vail theatres; and the vifage was (o 
jo formed 


l e c t. formed and painted, as to fuic the age, characters, 
or difpofitions of the perfons reprefented. When, 
during the courfe of one Scene, different emotions 
were to appear in the fame perfon, the mafque is 
faid to have been fo painted, that the Actor, by 
turning one or other profile of his face to the Spec- 
tators, expreffed the change of the fituation. This, 
however, was a contrivance attended with many 
difadvantages. The mafque muft have deprived 
the Spectators of all the pleafure which arifes from 
the natural animated expreffion of the eye, and 
the countenances and, joined with the other cir- 
cumftances which I have mentioned, is apt to give 
us but an unfavourable idea of the dramatic repre- 
sentations of the Antients. In defence of them, it 
■muft, at the fame time, be remembered, that their 
theatres were vaftly more extenfive in the area than 
ours, and filled with immenfe crowds. They were 
always uncovered, and expofed to the open air. 
The actors were beheld at a much greater diftance, 
and of courfe much more imperfectly by the bulk 
of the Spectators, which both rendered their looks 
of lefs confequence, and might make it in fome 
degree neceffary that their features fhould be ex- 
aggerated, the found of their voices enlarged, and 
their whole appearance magnified beyond the life, 
in order to make the ftronger impreffion. It is 
certain, that, as dramatic fpectacles were the fa- 
vourite entertainments of the Greeks and Romans, 
the attention given to their proper exhibition, and 
the magnificence of the apparatus bellowed on 



L E C T. 

their theatres, far exceeded any thing that has 

been attempted in modern ages. ^ " *'- - 1 

In the Compofitions of fome of the French 
Dramatic Writers, particularly Corneille, Racine, 
and Voltaire, Tragedy has appeared with much 
luftre and dignity. They mull be allowed to have 
improved upon the Ancients, in introducing more 
incidents, a greater variety of paffions, a fuller 
difplay of characters, and in rendering the fubject: 
thereby more interesting. 1 hey have ftudied to 
imitate the antient models in regularity of conduct. 
They are attentive to all the unities, and to all the 
decorums of fentiment and morality ; and their 
Style is, generally, very poetical and elegant. 
What an Englifh tafte is moft apt to cenfure, in 
them, is the want of fervour, Itrength, and the na- 
tural ianguage of paffion. There is often too much 
.converfation in their pieces, inftead of action. 
They are too declamatory, as was before obferved, 
when they mould be pafiionate ; too refined, when 
they mould be fimple. Voltaire freely acknow- 
ledges thefe defects of the French Theatre. 
He admits, that their beft Tragedies do not make 
a Sufficient impreffion on the heart; that the gal- 
lantry which reigns in them, and the long fine- 
Ipun dialogue with which they over- abound, fre- 
quently fpread a languor over them ; that the 
Authors feemed to be afraid of being too tragic; 
and very candidly gives it as his judgment, that 
an union of the vehemence and the action, which 

vol. in. y charac- 


L E C t. 

characterife the Englifh Theatre, with the correct - 
nefs and decorum of the French Theatre, would be 
necefTary to form a perfect Tragedy. 

Cornetlle, who is properly the Father of 
French Tragedy, is diftinguifhed by the majefty 
and grandeur of his fentiments, and the fruitfulnefs 
of his imagination. His genius was unqueftion- 
ably very rich, but feemed more turned towards 
the Epic than the Tragic vein ; for, in general, he 
is magnificent and fplendid, rather than tender 
and touching. He is the mod declamatory of all 
the French Tragedians. He united the copiouf- 
nefs of Dryden with the fire of Lucan, and he re- 
iembles them alio in their faults j in their extra- 
vagance and impetuofity. He has compofed a 
great number of Tragedies, very unequal in their 
merit. His bed and mod efteemed pieces, are 
the Cid, Horace, Polyeucte, and Cinna. 

Racine, as a Tragic Poet, is much fuperio- 
to Corneille. He wanted the copioufnefs and 
grandeur of Corneille's imaei»ationj but is free 
from his bombaft, and excels him greatly in ten- 
dernefs. Few Poets, indeed, are more tender 
and moving than Racine. His Phsdra, his An- 
dromaque, his Athalie, and his Mithridate, are 
excellent dramaric performances, and do no fmall 
honour to the French Stage. His language and 
verification are uncommonly beautiful. Of all 
the French Authors, he appears to me to have 



moil excelled in Poetical Style; to have managed L ^ L v T T ' 
their Rhyme with the greateft advantage and fa- 
cility, and to have given it the mod complete har- 
mony. Voltaire has, again and again, pronounced 
Racine's Athalie to be the " Chef d'Oeuvre" of 
the French Stage. It is altogether a facred drama, 
and owes much of its elevation to the Majefty of 
Religion ; but it is lefs tender and interefting than 
Andromaque. Racine has formed two of his plays 
upon plans of Euripides. In the Ph^dra he is 
extremely fuccefsful, but not \o, in my opinion, 
in the Iphigenie; where he has degraded the an- 
tien characters, by unfeafonable gallantry. Achil- 
les is a French Lover; and Eriphile, a modern 


* The characters of Corneiiie and Racine are happily con- 
t rafted with each other, in the following beaudful lines of a 
French I'oet, which will gratify feveral reader;. 


Ilium nobilibus majeftas evehit alis 
Venice tangentem nubes : ftant ordine longo 
Magnanimi circum heroes, fuigentibus omnes 
Induti trabeis ; Polyeuctus, Cinna, Seleucus, 
Et Cidus, et rugis fignatus Horatius ora. 

R A C I N" E . 

Hunc circurnvolitat penna alludente Capido, 
Vincla triumphatis inft;rnens fiorea fcenis; 
Colligit haec mollis genius, levibufque catenis 
Heroas flringit dociles, Pyrrhofque, Titofque, 

r 2 Pelicafqiie, 


Voltaire, in feveral of his Tragedies, is in- 
ferior to none of his predccefibrs. In one great 
article, he has outdone them all, in the delicate 
and interesting fituations which he has contrived to 
introduce. In theie lies his chief ftrength. He 
is not, indeed, exempt from the defects of the other 

Pelrdafque, ac Hippolytos, qui fponte fequuntur 
Servitium, fWilefque ferunt in vincula palmas. 
Jngentes nimirum aniraos Cornelius ingens, 
Et quales habet ipfe, fuis heroibus afflat 
Sublimes fenfus ; vox olli mafcula, magnum os, 
Nee mortale fonans. Rapido fluit impetu vena, 
Vena Sophodeis non inficianda fluentis. 
Racinius Galiis haud vifos ante theatris 
Mollior ingenio teneros induxit amores. 
Magnanimos quamvis fenfus fub pe&ore verfec 
Agrippina, licet Romano robore Burrhus 
Polleat, et magni generofa fuperbia Pori 
Non femel eniteat, tamen effe ad mcllia natum 
Credideris vatem; vox olli mellea, lenis 
Spiritus eft; non ille animis vim concitus infert, 
At ccecos animorum aditus rimatur, et imis 
Mentibus occultos, fyren penetrabilis, ictus 
Infiuuans, palpando ferit, lasditque placendo. 
Vena fluit facili non intermifla nitore, 
Nee rapidos femper volvit cum murmure fludlus, 
Agmine fed leni fluitat. Seu gramina lambit 
Rivulus, et cccco per prata virentia lapfu, 
Aufugiens, tacita fluit indeprenfus arena ; 
Flore micant ripa? illimes ; hue vulgus amantum 
Convolat, et lacrymis auget rivalibus undas: 
Singultus undaj referunt, gemitufque fonoros 
Ingeminant, molli gemitus imitante fufurro. 

Templum Tragoedias, per Fk. Maxsv, 
e Societate Jefu. 



French Tragedians, of wanting force, and of be- L ^ L y L T * 
ing fometimes too long and declamatory in his <— v - ^ 
fpeeches; but his characters are drawn with fpirit, 
his events are ftriking, and in his fentiments there 
is much elevation. His Zayre, Alzire, Merope, 
and Orphan of China, are four capital Tragedies, 
and deferve the higH&fc praife. What one might 
perhaps not expect, Voltaire is, in the drain of his 
fentiments, the moft religious, and the moft moral, 
of all Tragic Poets. 


Though the mufical Dramas of MetaftaHo ful- 
fil not the character of juft and regular Tragedies, 
they approach however fo near to it, and poffefs fo 
much merit, that it would be unjuft to pafs them 
over without notice. For the elegance of Style, 
the charms of Lyric Poetry, and the beauties of 
fentiment, they are eminent. They abound in well 
contrived and interefting fituations. The dialogue, 
fey its clofenefs and rapidity, carries a confiderable 
refemblance to that of the Antient Greek Trage- 
dies ; and is both more animated and more natural, 
than the long declamation of the French Theatre. 
But the Ihortnefs of the feveral Dramas, and the 
intermixture of fo much Lyric Poetry as belongs 
to this fort of Compofition, often occasions the 
courfe of the incidents to be hurried on too 
quickly, and prevents that confident difplay of 
characters, and that full preparation of events, 
which are necefTary to give a proper verifimili- 
tude to Tragedy. 

y 3 It 


It only now remains to fpeak of the ftate of 
Tragedy in Great Britain -, the general character of 
which is, that it is more animated and paflionate 
than French Tragedy, but more irregular and in- 
correct, and lefs attentive to decorum and to ele- 
gance. The pathetic, it mull always be remem- 
bered, is the foul of Tragedy. The Englilh, 
therefore, muft be allowed to have aimed at the 
higheft fpecies of excellence j though in the exe- 
cution, they have not always joined the other 
beauties that ought to accompany the pathetic. 

The firft object which prefents itfelf to us on 
the Englilh Theatre, is the great Shakefpeare. 
Great he may be juftly called, as the extent and 
force of his natural genius, both for Tragedy 
and Comody, are altogether unrivalled*. But, at 

* The character which Dryden has drawn of Shakefpeare is 
not only juit, but uncommonly elegant and happy. *« He was 
" the man, who of all modern, and perhaps antient Poets, had 
*' the largeft and moil comprehensive foul. All the images of 
" Nature were Hill prefent to him, and he drew them not labo- 
" rioufly, but luckily. When he defcribes any thing, you more 
" than fee it; you feel it too. They who accufe him of want- 
" ing learning, give him the greateft commendation. He was 
*» naturally learned. He needed not the Spectacles of Books to 
" read Nature. He looked inward, and found her there. I 
*' cannot fay he is every where alike. Were he fo, I mould 
" do him injury to compare him to the greateft of mankind. 
*' He is man) times flat and infipid; his comic wit degenerating 
«' into clenches ; his ferious fwelling into bombaft. But he is 
*• always great, when fome great occafion is prefented to him." 
Dry den's Eflay of Dramatic Poetry. 

9 the 



the fame time, it is genius fhootino; wild : deficient L E c T - 
in juft tafte, and altogether unaffifted by knowledge 
or art. Long has he been idolifed by the Britifli 
nation j much has been faid, and much has been 
written concerning him j Criticifm has been drawn 
to the very dregs, in commentaries upon his words 
and witticifms; and yet it remains, to this day, in 
doubt, whether his beauties, or his faults, be great- 
eft. Admirable fcenes, and paflages, without 
number, there are in his Plays; paffages beyond 
what are to be found in any other Dramatic Writer j 
but there is hardly any one of his Plays which can 
be called altogether a good one, or which can be 
read with uninterrupted pleafure from beginning 
to end. Befides extreme irregularities in conduct, 
and grotefque mixtures of ferious and comic in 
one piece, we are often interrupted by unnatural 
thoughts, harm expreffions, a certain obfcure 
bombaft, and a play upon words, which he is 
fond of purfuing; and thefe interruptions to our 
pleafure too frequently occur, on occafions when 
we would leaft wifh to meet with them. All thefe 
faults, however, Shakefpeare redeems, by two of 
the greateft excellencies which any Tragic Poet 
can poffefs; his lively and diverfified paintings of 
character; his ftrong and natural expreffions of 
paffion. Thefe are his two chief virtues j on thefe his 
merit refts. Notwithstanding his many abfurdities, 
all the while we are reading his Plays, we find our- 
felves in the midft of our fellows; we meet with 
men, vulgar perhaps in their manners, coarfe or 

y 4 harftv 


harfh in their fentiments, but ftill they are men$ 
they fpeak with human voices, and are actuated by 
human paffions ; we are interefted in what they fay 
or do, becaufe we feel that they are of the fame na- 
ture with ourfelves. It is therefore no matter of 
wonder, that from the more polifhed and regular, 
but more cold and artificial performances of other 
Poets, the Public mould return with pleafure to 
fuch warm and genuine reprefentations of human 
nature. Shakefpeare poffeffes likewife the merit 
of having created, for himfelf, a fort of world of 
praster- natural beings. His witches, ghofts, fai- 
ries, and fpirits of all kinds, are defcribed with 
fuch circumftances of awful and myflerious folem- 
nity, and fpeak a language fo peculiar to them- 
felves, as ftrongly to affect the imagination. His 
two matter- pieces, and in which, in my opinion, 
the ftrength of his genius chiefly appears, are 
Othello and Macbeth. With regard to his hif- 
torical plays, they are, properly fpeaking, neither 
Tragedies nor Comedies; but a peculiar fpecies 
of Dramatic Entertainment, calculated to defcribe 
the manners of the times of which he treats, to ex- 
hibit the principal characters, and to fix our ima- 
gination on the mod interesting events and revo- 
lutions of our own country*. 

* See an excellent defence of Shakefpeare's Hiflorical Plays, 
and feveral juit obfervations on his peculiar excellencies as a 
Tragic Poet, in Mrs. Montague's Eflay on the Writings and 
Genius of Shakefpeare. 



After the age of Shakefpeare, we can produce L e c t. 
in the Englifh language fevera) detached Tragedies 
of confiderable merit. But we have not many Dra- 
matic Writers, whofe whole works are entitled 
either to particular criticifm, or very high praife. 
In the Tragedies of Dryden and Lee, there is much 
fire, but mixed with much fuftian and rant. Lee's 
*f Theodofius, or the Fcrce of Love/' is the bed 
of his pieces, and, in fome of the fcenes, does not 
want tendernefs and warmth ; though romantic in 
the plan, and extravagant in the fentiments. Ot- 
way was endowed with a high portion of the Tra- 
gic fpirit ; which appears to great advantage in his 
two principal Tragedies, " The Orphan," and 
cc Venice Preferred." In thefe, he is perhaps too 
Tragic; the dillrefTes being fo deep as to tear and 
overwhelm the mind. He is a Writer, doubdefs, 
of genius and ftrong paffion ; but, at the fame time, 
exceedingly grofs and indelicate. No Tragedies 
are lefs moral than thofe of Otway. There are no 
generous or noble fentiments in them ; but a li- 
centious fpirit often difcovers itfelf. He is the very 
oppofite of the French decorum ; and has contrived 
to introduce obfcenity and indecent allufions, into 
the midft of deep Tragedy. 

Rowe's Tragedies make a contrafl: to thofe of 
Otway. He is full of elevated and moral fenti- 
ments. The Poetry is often good, and the lan- 
guage always pure and elegant; but in molt of his 
Plays he is too cold and uninterefting ; and flowery 



rather than tragic. Two, however, he has pro- 
duced, which deferve to be exempted from this cen- 
fure, Jane Shore and the Fair Penitent; in both of 
which, there are fo many tender and truly pathetic 
fcenes, as to render them juftly favourites of the 
Public. . 

Dr. Young's Revenge, is a play which dis- 
covers genius and fire ; but wants tendernefs, and 
turns too much upon the fhocking and direful paf- 
fions. In Congreve's Mourning Bride, there are 
fome line fituations, and much good Poetry. The 
two firft Acts are admirable. The meeting of Al- 
meria with her hufband Ofmyn, in the tomb of An- 
felmo, is one of the mod folemn and ftriking fitua- 
tions to be found in any Tragedy. The defects 
in the cataftrophe, I pointed out in the lad Lecture. 
Mr. Thomfon's Tragedies are too full of a ftiff 
morality, which renders them dull and formal. 
Tancred and Sigifmunda, far excel the reft ; and 
for the plot, the characters, and fentiments, juftly 
deferve a place among the bed Englifh Tragedies. 
Of later pieces, and of living Authors, it is not 
my purpofe to treat. 

Upon the whole; reviewing the Tragic Com- 
pofitions of different nations, the following con- 
clufions arife. A Greek Tragedy is the relation 
of any diftrefsful or melancholy incident; fometimes 
the effect of paffion or crime, oftener of the decree 
of the Gods, limply expofed; without much variety 



of parts or events, but naturally and beautifully fet 
before us; heightened by the Poetry of the Chorus. 
A French Tragedy, is a feries of artful and refined 
converlations, founded upon a variety of tragical 
and interefting fituations; carried on with little ac- 
tion and vehemence; but with much poetical beauty, 
and high propriety and decorum. An Englifh 
Tragedy is the combat of flrong paffions, fet be- 
fore us in all their violence; producing deep difaf- 
tersj often irregularly conducted; abounding in ac- 
tion ; and filling the Spectators with grief. The 
Antient Tragedies were more natural and fimple ; 
the Modern are more artful and complex. Among 
the French, there is more correctnefs; among the 
Englifh, more fire. Andromaque and Zayre, fof- 
ten; Othello and Venice Preferved, rend the heart. 
It deferves remark, that three of the greateft maf- 
ter-pieces of the French Tragic Theatre, turn 
wholly upon religious fubjects: the Athalie of Ra- 
cine, the Polyeucte of Corneille, and the Zayre of 
Voltaire. The firft is founded upon an historical 
paflage of the Old Teflament; in the other two, the 
diftrefs arifes from the zeal and attachment of the 
principal perfonages to the Chriftian faith; and in 
all the three, the Authors have, with much pro- 
priety, availed themfelves of the Majefty which may 
be derived from religious ideas. 


L £ C T. 



Pomedy is fufficiently difcrirninated from Tra- 
gedy, by its general fpirit and ftrain. While 
pity and terror, and the other ftrong paffions, form 
the province of the latter, the chief, or rather fole 
inftrument of the former, is ridicule. Comedy 
propofes for its object, neither the great fufferings, 
nor the great crimes of men; but their follies and 
(lighter vices, thofe parts of their character, which 
raife in beholders a kn\'c of impropriety, which 
expofe them to be cenfured, and laughed at by 
others, or which render them troublefome in civil 

Th-is general idea of Comedy, as a fatirical ex- 
hibition of the improprieties and follies of mankind, 
is an idea very moral and ufeful. There is nothing 
in the nature, or general plan of this kindofCom- 
pofition, that renders it liable to cenfure. To po-r 
lifh the manners of men, to promote attention to 
the proper decorums of focial behaviour, and, a! 


C O M E D Y. 333 

all, to render vice ridiculous, is doing a real fervice l e c t. 


to the world. Many vices might be more fuccefs- ^ . ^ !_j 

fully exploded, by employing ridicule agjinft them, 
than by ferious attacks and arguments. At the 
fame time, it muft be confeffed, that ridicule is an 
inftrument of fuch a nature, that when managed by 
unfkilful, cr improper hands, there is hazard of 
its doing mifchief, inftead of good, to fociety. For 
ridicule is far from being, as feme have maintained it 
to be, a proper teft of truth. On the contrary, it 
is apt to miflead, and feduce, by the colours which 
it throws upon its objects; and it is often more dif- 
ficult to judge, whether thefe colours be natural 
and proper, than it is to diftinguifh between fimple 
truth and error. Licentious Writers, therefore, 
of the Comic clafs, have too often had it in their 
power to caft a ridicule upon characters and objects 
which did not deferve it. But this is a fault, not 
owing to the nature of Comedy, but to the genius 
and turn of the Writers of it. In the hands of a 
loofe immoral Author, Comedy will miflead and 
corrupt; while, in thofe of a virtuous and well- 
intentioned one, it will be not only a gay and in- 
nocent, but a laudable and ufeful entertainment. 
French Comedy is an excellent fchool of manners; 
while Englifh Comedy has been too often the fchool 
of vice. 

The rules refpecting the Dramatic Action, which 
I delivered in the firft Lecture upon Tragedy, be- 
long equally to Comedy; and hence, of courfe, 
our difquifitions concerning it are fhortened. It is 

13 equally 

; 3 4 C O M E D Y. 

equally neceffary to both thefe forms of Dramatic 
Compofition, that there be a proper unity of action 
and fubjedt: that the unities of time and place be, 
as much as poffible, preferved; that is, that the 
time of the action be brought within reafonable 
bounds; and the place of the action never changed, 
at leaft, not during the courfe of each A 61 -, that 
the feveral Scenes or fucceMIve converfations be 
properly linked together; that the Stage be never 
totally evacuated till the Act clofes; and that the 
reafon fhould appear to us, why the perfonages, 
who fill up the different Scenes, enter and go off the 
Stage, at the time when they are made to do fo. 
The fcope of all thefe rules, 1 (howed, was to bring 
the imitation as near as poffible to probability; 
which is always neceffary, in order to any imita- 
tion giving us pleafure. This reafon requires, per- 
haps, a ftricter obfervance of the dramatic rules in 
Comedy, than in Tragedy. For the action of 
Comedy being more familiar to us than that of Tra- 
gedy, more like what we are accudomed to fee in 
common life, we judge more eafily of what is pro- 
bable, and are more hurt by the want of it. The 
probable and the natural, both in the conduct of 
the ftory, and in the characters and fentiments of 
the perions who are introduced, are the great foun- 
dation, it mull always be remembered, of the whole 
beauty of Comedy. 

The fubjects of Tragedy are not limited to any 
country, or to any age. The Tragic Poet may 
lay his Scene in whatever region he pleafes. He 


COMEDY. 335 

may form his fubject upon the hiftory, either of his 
own, or of a foreign country ; and he may take it 
from any period that is agreeable to him, however 
remote in time. The reverfe of this holds in Co- 
medv, for a clear and obvious reafon. In the great 
vices, great virtues, and high pafiions, men of all 
countries and ages refemble one another j and are 
therefore equally fubjects for the Tragic Mufe. 
But thofe decorums of behaviour, thofe leffer dif- 
criminations of character, which afford fubject for 
Comedy, change with the differences of countries 
and times; and can never be fo well underftood by 
foreigners, as by natives. We weep for the heroes 
of Greece and Rome, as freely as we do for thofe 
of our own country: but we are touched with the 
ridicule of fuch manners and fuch characters only, 
as we fee and know ; and therefore the fcene and 
fubjecT of Comedy fhould always be laid in our own 
country, and in our own times. The Comic Poet, 
who aims at correcting improprieties and follies of 
behaviour, fhould fludy " to catch the manners 
cc living as they rife." It is not his bufinefs to 
amufe us with a tale of the laft age, or with a 
Spanifh or a French intrigue; but to give us pic- 
tures taken from among ourfelves; to fatirize 
reigning and prefent vices; to exhibit to the age a 
faithful copy of itfelf, with its humours, its follies, 
and its extravagancies. It is only by laying his 
plan in this manner, that he can add weight and 
dignity to the entertainment which he gives us. 
Plautus, it is true, and Terence, did not follow 


336 C O M E D Y. 

l e c t. this rule. They hid the fcene of their Comedies 
in Greece, and adopted the Greek laws and cuftoms. 
But it mud be remembered, that Comedy was, in 
their age, but a new entertainment in Rome ; and 
that then they contented themfelves with imitating, 
often with translating merely,, the Comedies of 
Menander, and other Greek Writers. In a r cer- 
times, it is known that the Romans had the " Co- 
mcedia Togata," or what was founded on their 
own manners, as well as the " Comeedia Paliiata,'* 
or what was taken from the Greeks. 

Comedy may be divided into two kinds; Co- 
medy of Character, and Comedy of Intrigue. In 
the latter, the plot, or the action of the Play, is 
made the principal object. In the former, the dif- 
play of fome peculiar character is chiefiy -aimed at> 
the action is contrived altogether with a view to 
this end, and is treated as fubordinate to it. The 
French abound mod in Comedies of Character. 
All Moliere's capital Pieces are of this fort; his 
Avare, for inftance, Mifanthrope, Tartuffe; and 
iuch are Deftouches's alfo, and thofe of the other 
chief French Comedians. The Englifh abound 
more in Comedies of Intrigue. In the Plays of 
Congreve, and, in general, in all our Comedies, 
there is much more ftory, more buftle and action, 
than on the French Theatre. 

In order to give this fort of Compofition its 
proper advantage, thefe two kinds fhould be pro- 


perly mixed together. Without fome interefting 
and well conducted (lory, mere converfation is apt 
to become infipid. There mould be always as 
much intrigue, as to give us fomething to wifh, 
and fomething to fear. The incidents mould lb 
fucceed one another, as to produce ftriking fitua- 
tions, and to fix our attention ; while they afford at 
the fame time a proper field for the exhibition of 
character. For trie Poet muft never forget, that 
to exhibit characters and manners, is his principal 
object:. The action in Comedy, though it demands 
his care, in order to render it animated and natural, 
is a lefs fignificant and important part of the per- 
formance, than the action in Tragedy: as in Co- 
medy, it is what men fay, and how they behave, 
that draws our attention, rather than what they per- 
form, or what they fuffer. Hence it is a great 
fault to overcharge it with too much intrigue j and 
thofe intricate Spanifh plots that were fafhionable 
for a while, carried on by perplexed apartments, dark 
entries, and difguifed habits, are now juftly con- 
demned and laid afide j for by fuch conduct, the 
main ufe of Comedy was loft. The attention of the 
Spectators, inftead of being directed towards any 
difplay of characters, was fixed upon the furprifmg 
turns and revolutions of the intrigue ; and Comedy 
was changed into a mere Novel. 

In the management of Characters, one of the 
moft common faults of Comic Writers, is the car- 
rying of them too far beyond life. Wherever ridi- 

vol, in, z cule 


L E C T. 

33S C O M E D Y. 

L E C T. 

cule is concerned, It is indeed extremely difficult 
to hit the precife point where true wit ends, and 
buffoonery begins. When the Mifer, for inftance, 
in Plautus, fearching the perfon whom he fufpects 
for having (lolen his cafket, after examining firft 
his right hand, and then his left, cries our, " of- 
" tende etiam tertiam," " fhow me your third hand" 
(a ftroke too which Moliere has copied from him), 
there is no one but muft be fenfible of the extra- 
vagance. Certain degrees of exaggeration are al- 
lowed to the Comedian ; but there are limits fet to 
it by nature and good tafte; and iuppofing the Mi- 
fer to be ever fo much engroffed by his jealoufy and 
his fufpicions, it is impoffible to conceive any man 
in his wits fufpecting another of having more than 
two hands. 

Characters in Comedy ought to be clearly 
diftinguiihed from one another ; but the artificial 
contrafting of Characters, and the introducing them 
always in pairs, and by oppofices, give too theatri- 
cal and affected an air to the Piece. This is be- 
come too common a refource of Comic Writers, in 
order to heighten their Characters, and difplay 
them to more advantage. As foon as the violent 
and impatient perfon arrives upon the Stage, the 
Spectator knows that, in the next fcene, he is to 
be contrafted with the mild and good natured man -, 
or if one of the lovers introduced be remarkably 
gay and airy, we are lure that his companion is to 
be a grave and fcrious lover; like Frankly and 


COMEDY. 339 

Bellamy, Clarinda and Jacintha, in Dr. Hoadley's L e c t. 
Sufpicious Hufband. Such productions of Cha- '• 

rafters by pairs, is like the employment of the 
figure Antithefis in difcourfe, which, as I formerly 
obferved, gives brilliancy indeed upon occafions, 
but is too apparently a rhetorical artifice. In every 
fort of compofuion, the perfection of art is to con- 
ceal art. A mafterly Writer will therefore give us 
his characters, diftinguifhed rather by fuch fhades 
of diverfity as are commonly found in Society, than 
marked with fuch ftrong oppoficions, as are rarely 
brought into actual contraft, in any of the circum- 
ftances of iife. 

The Style of Comedy ought to be pure, ele- 
gant, and lively, very feldom rifing higher than the 
ordinary tone of polite converfation; and, upon no 
occafion, defcending into vulgar, mean, and grofs 
expreffions. Here the French rhyme, which in 
many of their Comedies they have preferved, oc- 
curs as an unnatural bondage. Certainly, if Profe 
belongs to any Compofition whatever, it is to thac 
which imitates the converfation of men in ordinary 
life. One of the mod difficult circumftances in 
writing Comedy, and one too, upon which the fuc- 
cefs of it very much depends, is to maintain, 
throughout, a current of eafy, genteel, unaffected 
dialogue, without pertnefs and flippancy; without 
too much ftudied and unfeafonable wit ; without 
dullnefs and formality. Too few of our Englifh. 
Comedies are diflinguilhed for this happy turn 
of converfation , molt of them are liable to 

z 2 one 


one or other of the exceptions I have men- 
tioned. The Carelefs Hufband, and, perhaps, wc 
may add the Provoked Hufband, and the Sufpi- 
cious Hufband, feem to have more merit than moll 
of them, for eafy and natural dialogue. 

These are the chief obfervations that occur to 
me, concerning the general principles of this fpecies 
of Dramatic Writing, as diftinguifhed from Tra- 
gedy. But its nature and fpirit will be ftill better 
underftood, by a fhort hiftory of its progrefsj and 
a view of the manner in which it has been carried 
on by Authors of different nations. 

Tragedy is generally fuppofed to' have been 
more antient among the Greeks than Comedy. We 
have fewer lights concerning the origin and progrefs 
of the latter. What is mod probable, is, that, 
like the other, it took its rife accidentally from the 
diversions peculiar to the feaft of Bacchus, and from 
Thefpis and his Cart; till, by degrees, it diverged 
into an entertainment of a quite different nature from 
folemn and heroic Tragedy. Critics diftinguifh 
three ftages of Comedy among the Greeks; which 
they call the Antient, the Middle, and the New. 

The Antient Comedy confided in direct and 
avowed fatire againft particular known perfons, who 
were brought upon the Stage by name. Of this 
nature are the Plays of Ariftophanes, eleven of 
which are ftill extant; Plays of a very lingular na- 
ture, and wholly different from all Compofitions 




which have, fince that age, borne the name of Co- l e c t. 


medy. They fhow what a turbulent and licentious 
Republic that of Athens was, and what unreftrain- 
ed fcope the Athenians gave to ridicule, when they 
could fuffer the moft illuftrious perfonages of their 
flate, their generals, and their magistrates, Cleon, 
Lamachus, Nicias, Alcibiades, not to mention 
Socrates the Philofopher, and Euripides the Poet, 
to be publicly made the fubject of Comedy. Se- 
veral of Ariftophanes's Plays are wholly political 
fatires upon public management, and the conduct 
of generals and flatefmen, during the Pelopon- 
nefian war. They are fo full of political allegories 
and allufions, that it is impoflible to underftand 
them without a confiderable knowledge of the hif- 
tory of thofe times. They abound too with Paro* 
dies of the great Tragic Poets, particularly of Eu- 
ripides j to whom the Author bore much enmity, 
and has written two Comedies, almoft wholly in 
order to ridicule him. 

Vivacity, Satire, and Buffoonery, are the cha- 
ra&eriftics of Ariftophanes. Genius and force he 
difplays upon many occafions; but his perform^ 
ances, upon the whole, are not calculated to give 
us any high opinion of the attic tafte of wit, in his 
age. They feem, indeed, to have been com- 
pofed for the mob. The ridicule employed in them 
is extravagant^ the wit, for the moft part, buf- 
foon ifh and farcical; the perfonal raillery, biting 
and cruelj and the obfcenity that reigns in them, 

z 3 is 


l e 1 c t. is grofs and intolerable. The treatment given by 
this Comedian, to Socrates the Philofopher, in his 
Play of " The Clouds," is well known j but how- 
ever it might tend to difparage Socrates in the 
public eftcem, P. Brumoy, in his Theatre Grec, 
makes it appear, that it could not have been, as is 
commonly fuppofed, the caufe of decreeing the 
death of that Philofopher, which did not happen 
till twenty-three years after the reprefentation of 
Ariftophanes's Clouds. There is a Chorus in 
Ariilophanes's Plays j but altogether of an irre- 
gular kind. It is partly ferious, partly comic; 
ibme times mingles in the Action, fometimes ad- 
dreffes the Spectators, defends the Author, and 
attacks his enemies. 

Soon after the days of Ariftophanes, the liberty 
of attacking perfons on the Stage by name, being 
found of dangerous confequence to the public 
peace, was prohibited by law. The Chorus alio, 
was, at this period, banifhed from the Comic. 
Theatre, as having been an instrument of too 
much licence and abufe. Then, what is called the 
Middle Comedy took rife, which was no other 
than an elufion of the law. Fictitious names, in- 
deed, were employed j but living perfons were dill 
attacked, and defcribed in fuch a manner as to be 
fufficiently known. Of thefe Comic Pieces, we 
have no remains. To them fucceeded the New 
Comedy ; when the Stage being obliged to defift 
wholly from perfonal ridicule^ became, what it is 



flow, the picture of manners and characters, but 
not of particular perfons. Menander was the mod 
diftinguifhed Author of this kind among the 
Greeks; and both from the imitations of him by 
Terence, and the account given of him by Plu- 
tarch, we have much reafon to regret that his 
writings have perifhed; as he appears to have 
reformed, in a very high degree, the public tafte, 
and to have.fet the model of correct, elegant, and 
moral Comedy, 

The only remains which we now have of the 
New Comedy, among the Antients, are the Plays 
of Plautus and Terence; both of whom were 
formed upon the Greek Writers. Plautus is dif- 
tinguifhed for very expreflive language, and a 
great degree of the Vis Comica. As he wrote in 
an early period, he bears feveral marks of the 
rudenefs of the Dramatic Art, among the Romans, 
in his time. He opens his Plays with Prologues, 
which fometimes pre-occupy the fubject of the 
whole Piece. The reprefentation too, and the 
action of the Comedy, are fometimes confounded; 
the Actor departing from his character, and ad- 
dreffing the Audience. There is too much low 
wit and fcurrility in Plautus; too much of quaint 
conceit, and play upon words. But withal, he 
difplays more variety, and more force than Terence. 
His characters are always ftrongly marked, though 
fometimes coarfely. His Amphytrion has been 
copied both by Moliere and by Dryden; and his 

z 4 Mifer 


L xl ° T ' ^^ er a ^° n ^ e Aulularia), is the foundation of 
a capital Play of Moliere's, which has been once 
and again imitated on the Englifh Stage. Than 
Terence, nothing can be more delicate, more po- 
lifhed, and elegant. His Style is a model of the 
pure'ft and moft graceful Latinity. His dialogue 
is always decent and correct; and he poffefTes be- 
yond moft Writers, the art of relating with that 
beautiful picturefque fimplicity, which never fails 
to pleafe. His morality is, in general, unexcep- 
tionable. The fituations which he introduces, are 
often tender and interesting; and many of his fenti- 
ments touch the heart. Hence, he may be confi- 
dered as the founder of that ferious Comedy, 
which has, of late years, been revived, and of 
which I fhall have occafion afterwards to fpeak. 
If he fails in any thing, it is in fprightlinefs and 
ftrength. Both in his Characters, and in his 
Plots, there is too much famenefs and uniformity 
throughout all his 'Plays ; he copied Menander, 
and is faid not to have equalled him*. In order 
to form a perfect: Comic Author, an union would 

* Julius Caefar has given us his opinion of Terence, in the 
following lines, which are preferved in the life of Terence^ 
afcribed to Suetonius: 

Tu quoque, tu in fummis, 6 dimidiate Menander, 
Poneris, et merito, puri fermonis amator; 
Lenibus atque utinam fcriptis adjuncla foret vi? 
Comica, ut sequato virtus polleret honore 
Cum Gratis, neque in hac defpeclus parte jaceresj 
Uhum hoc maceror, et doleo tibi deeffe^ Terenti. 



be rcquifite of the fpirit and fire of Plautus, with l ^ v < ii T ' 
the grace and correctnefs of Terence. 

When we enter on the view of Modern Co- 
medy, one of the firft objects which prefents itfelf 5 
is the Spanifh Theatre, which has been remarkably 
fertile in Dramatic Productions. Lopez de Vega, 
Guillin, and Calderon, are the chief Spanifh Co- 
medians. Lopez de Vega, who is by much the 
mod famous of them, is faid to have written above 
a thoufand Plays ; but our furprife at the number 
of his productions will be diminifhed, by being in- 
formed of their nature. From the account which. 
M. Perron de Caftera, a French Writer, gives of 
them, it would feem, that our Shakefpeare is per- 
fectly a regular and methodical Author, in compa- 
rifon of Lopez. He throws afide all regard to the 
Three Unities, or to any of the eftablifhed forms 
of Dramatic Writing. One Play often includes 
many years, nay, the whole life of a man. The 
Scene, duiing the firft Act, is laid in Spain, the 
next in Italy, and the third in Africa. His Plays 
are moftly of the hiftorical kind, founded on the 
annals of the country; and they are, generally, a 
fort of Tragi-comediess or a mixture of Heroic 
Speeches, Serious Incidents, War and Slaughter, 
with much Ridicule and Buffoonery. Angels and 
Gods, Virtues and Vices, Chriftian Religion, and 
Pagan Mythology, are all frequendy jumbled 
together. In fhort, they are Plays like no other 
Pramatic Competitions; full of the romantic and 



L E C T. 


extravagant. At the fame time, it is generally ad- 
mitted that in the Works of Lopez de Vega, there 
are frequent mark of genius, and much force of 
imaginacion; many well drawn characters ; many 
happy fituations-, many linking and interefting 
furprifes; and, from the fource of his rich inven- 
tion, the Dramatic Writers of other countries are 
faid to have frequently drawn their materials. He 
himfelf apologifes for the extreme irregularity of 
his Compofition, from the prevailing tafte of his 
countrymen, who delighted in a variety of events, 
in ftrange and furprifing adventures, and a laby- 
rinth of intrigues, much more than in a natural 
and regularly conducted Story. 

The general characters of the French Comic 
Theatre are, that it is correct, chafte, and decent. 
Several Writers of confiderable note it lias pro- 
duced, fuch as Regnard, Dufrefny, Dancourt, and 
Marivaux; but the Dramatic Author in whom the 
French* glory molt, and whom they juftly place at 
the head of all their Comedians, is the famous 
Moliere. There is, indeed, no Author, in all the 
fruitful and diftinguilhed age of Louis XIV. who 
has attained a higher reputation than Moliere; or 
who has more nearly reached the fummit of per- 
fection in his own art, according to the judg- 
ment of all the French Critics. Voltaire boldly 
pronounces him to be the mod eminent Comic 
Poet of any age or country; nor, perhaps, is this 
the decifion of mere partiality j for taking him 
i i upon 


upon the whole, I know none who deferves to be L 
preferred to him. Moliere is always the Satirift 
only of vice or folly He has felected a great 
variety of ridiculous charafters peculiar to the 
times in which he lived, and he has generally 
placed the ridicule juftly. He pofTefTed ftrong 
Comic powers; he is full of mirth and pleafantry; 
and his pleafantry is always innocent. His Co- 
medies in Verfe, fuch as the Mifanthrope and 
Tartuffe, are a kind of dignified Comedy, in 
which vice is expofed, in the ftyle of elegant and 
polite Satire. In his Profe Comedies, though 
there is abundance of ridicule, yet there is never 
any thing found to offend a modeft ear, or to 
throw contempt on fobriety and virtue. Together 
with thofe high qualities, Moliere has alfo fome 
defects, which Voltaire, though his profeffed Pane- 
gyrift, candidly admits. He is acknowledged not 
to be happy in the unravelling of his Plots. At- 
tentive more to the ftrong exhibition of characters, 
than to the conduct of the intrigue, his unravelling 
is frequently brought on with too little preparation, 
and in an improbable manner. In his Verfe 
Comedies, he is fometimes not fufficiently inte- 
refting, and too full of long fpeeches ; and in his 
more rifible pieces in Profe, he is cenfured for 
being too farcical. Few Writers however, if any, 
ever pofTefTed the fpirit, or attained the true end of 
Comedy, fo perfectly, upon the whole, as Moliere. 
His Tartuffe, in the ftyle of Grave Comedy, and 



L xlvii T ' ^ 11S -d' vare > m tne Gay, are accounted his two cau 
pital productions. 

From the Englifh Theatre, we are naturally led 
to expect a greater variety of original characters in 
Comedy, and bolder ftrokes of wit and humour, 
than are to be found on any other Modern Stage. 
Humour is, in a great meafure, the peculiar pro- 
vince of the Englifh nation. The nature of fuch 
a free Government as ours; and that unreftrained 
liberty which our manners allow to every man, of 
living entirely after his own tafte, afford full fcope 
to the difplay of Angularity of character, and to the 
indulgence of humour in all its forms. Whereas, 
in France, the influence of a defpotic court, the 
more eitablifhed fubordination of ranks, and the 
univerfal obiervance of the forms of politenefs and 
decorum, fpread a much greater uniformity over 
the outward behaviour and characters of men. 
Hence Comedy has a more ample field, and can 
Eow with a much freer vein in Britain, than in 
France. But it is extremely unfortunate, that, 
together with the freedom and boldnefs of thff 
Comic fpirit in Britain, there mould have been 
joined fuch a fpirit of indecency and licentioufnefs, 
as has difgraced Englifh Comedy beyond that of 
any nation, fmce the days of Ariftophanes. 

The firft age, however, of Englilh Corned)', 
was not infected by this fpirit. Neither the Plays 


of Shakefpeare, nor thofe of Ben Jonfon, can be 
accufed of immoral tendency. Shakefpeare's ge- 
neral character, which I gave in the laft Lecture, 
appears with as great advantage in his Comedies, 
as in his Tragedies; a ftrong, fertile, and creative 
genius, irregular in conduct, employed too often 
in amufing the mob, but fingularly rich and happy 
in the defcription of characters and manners. 
Jonfon is more regular in the conduct of his 
pieces, but (tiff and pedantic; though not deftitute 
of Dramatic Genius. In the plays of Beaumont 
and Fletcher, much fancy and invention appear, 
and feveral beautiful paflfages may be found. But, 
in general, they abound with romantic and impro- 
bable incidents, with overcharged and unnatural 
characters, and with coarfe and grofs allufions. 
Thefe Comedies of the laft age, by the change of 
public manners, and of the turn of converfation, 
fince their time, are now become too obfolete to bz 
very agreeable. For we mud obferve, that Co- 
medy, depending much on the prevailing modes of 
external behaviour, becomes fooner antiquated 
than any other fpecies of Writing; and, when anti- 
quated, it feems harfh to us, and lofes its power of 
plealing. This is efpecially the cafe with refpect 
to the comedies of our own country, where the 
change of manners is more fenfible and ftriking, 
than in any foreign production. In our own 
country, the prefent mode of behaviour is always 
the ftandard of pblitenefs; and whatever departs 
from it appears uncouth; whereas in the Writings 

6 of 



L xlvii T °^ f° re ig ners > we are k^ acquainted with any 
ftandard of this kind, and of courfe, are lei's hurt 
by the want of it. Plautus appeared more an- 
tiquated to the Romans, in the age of Auguftus, 
than he does now to us. It is a high proof of 
Shakefpeare's uncommon genius, that, notwith- 
ftanding theie difadvantages, his character of 
Falftaff is to this day admired, and his " Merry 
<f Wives of Windlbr" read with pleafure. 

It was not till the sera of the Refroration of 
King Charles II. that the licentioufnefs which was 
obferyed, at that period, to infect the court, and 
the nation in general, feized, in a peculiar manner, 
upon Comedy as its province, and, for alrnoft a 
whole century, retained pofTeffion of it. It was 
then firft, that the Rake became the predominant 
character, and, with fome exceptions, the Her,o 
of every Comedy. The ridicule was thrown, not 
upon vice and folly, but much more commonly 
upon chaftity and fobriety. At the end of the 
play, indeed, the Rake is commonly, in appear- 
ance, reformed, and profefTes that he is to become 
a fober man ; but throughout the Play, he is fet 
up as the model of a fine gentleman; and the 
agreeable imp'reffion made by a fort of fprightly 
licentioufnefs, is left upon the imagination, as a 
picture of the pleafurable enjoyment of life; while 
the reformation pailes flightly away, as a matter of 
mere form. To what fort of moral conduct fuch 
public entertainments as thefe tend to form the 



youth of both iexes, may be eafily imagined. 
Yet this has been the ipirit which has prevailed 
upon the Comic Stage of Great Britain, not only 
during the reign of Charles II. but throughout the 
reigns of King William and Queen Anne, and down 
to the days of King George II. 

Dryden was the firft confiderable Dramatic 
Writer after the Restoration ; in whofe Comedies, 
as in all his works, there are found many ttrokes of 
genius* mixed with great carelefihefs, and vifible 
marks of hafty compofition. As he fought to 
pleafe only, he went along with the manners of the 
times; and has carried through all his Comedies 
that vein of difiblute licentioufnefs, which was then 
fafhionable. In fome of them, the indecency was 
fo grofs as to occafion, even in that age, a pro- 
hibition of being brought upon the Stage*. 

Since his time, the Writers of Comedy, of 
greateit note, have been Cibber, Vanburgh, Far- 
quhar, and Congreve. Cibber has written a great 

35 1 

L E C T. 


* '* The mirth which he excites in Comedy will, perhaps, be 
" found not fo much to arife from any original humour, or 
" peculiaricy of character, nicely diftioguilhed, and diligently 
•' purfued, as from incidents and circumllances, artifices and 
" furprifes, from jells of attion, rather than fentiment. What 
*« he had of humorous or paffionate, he feems to have had, 
*' not from nature, but from other Poets; if not always a pla- 
•* giary, yet, at leail, an imitator." Johnson's Life of 



l e c t. many Comedies; and though, in feveral of therti^ 
there be much fprightlinefs, and a certain pert vi- 
vacity peculiar to him, yet they are fo forced and 
unnatural in the incidents, as to have generally 
funk into obfcurity, except two, which have always 
continued in high favour with the Public, <f The 
" Carelefs Hufband," and ft The Provoked Huf- 
" band." The former is remarkable for the po- 
lite and eafy turn of the Dialogue ; and, with the 
exception of one indelicate Scene, is tolerably mo- 
ral too in the conduct, and in the tendency. The 
latter, " The Provoked Hufband," (which was 
the joint production of Vanburgh and Cibber,) 
is, perhaps, on the whole, the bed; Comedy in the 
Englifh Language. It is liable, indeed, to one 
critical objection, of having a double Plot; as the 
incidents of the Wrong-head family, and thofe of 
Lord Townly's, are feparate, and independent of 
each other. But this irregularity is compenfated 
by the natural characters, the fine painting, and 
the happy ftrokes of humour with which it 
abounds. We are, indeed, furprifed to find fo 
unexceptionable a Comedy proceeding from two 
fuch loo. e Authors; for, in its general ftrain, it 
is calculated to expofe licentioulnefs and folly; 
and would do honour to any Stage. 

Sir John Vanburgh has fpirit, wit, and eafe; 
but he is, to the lafl degree, grofs and indelicate. 
He is one of the moll immoral of all our Come- 
dians. His " Provoked Wife," is full of fuch 



indecent fentiments and allufions, as ought to ex- 
plode it out of all reputable fociety. His " Re- 
lapfe," is equally cenfurable ; and thefe are his only 
two confiderable Pieces. Congreve is, unquestion- 
ably, a Writer of genius. He is lively, witty, and 
fparkling; full of character, and full of action. 
His chief fault as a Comic Writer is, that he 
overflows with wit. It is often introduced unfea- 
fonably; and, almoft every where, there is too 
great a proportion of it for natural well-bred con- 
verfation*. Farquhar is alight and gay Writer; 
lefs correct, and lefs fparkling than Congreve ; but 
he has more eafe, and, perhaps, fully as great a 
fhare of the Vis Comica. The two bed, and 
lead exceptionable of his Plays, are the <c Recruit- 
" ing Officer," and the " Beaux Stratagem.'' I 
fay the leaft exceptionable; for, in general, the 
tendency of both Congreve and Farquhar's Plays 
it immoral. Throughout them all, the Rake, the 
loofe intrigue, and the life of licentioufnefs, are the 
objects continually led up to view; as if the afTem- 
blics of a great and polifhed nation could be amufed 
with none but vicious objects. The indelicacy of 
thefe writers, in the female characters which they 
introduce, is particularly remarkable. Nothing 

* Dr. Johnfon fays of him, in his life, that " his pet fonages 
*' are a kind of intellectual Gladiators ; every fenterice is to 
** ward, or to ftrike ; the conteft of fmartnefs is never inter- 
" mitted ; his wit is a meteor, playing to and fro, with al- 
«« ternate corrufcations." 

vol. in. a a am 


can be more awkward than their reprefentations 
of a woman of virtue and honour. Indeed, there 
are hardly any female characters in their Plays ex- 
cept two; women of loofe principles, or when a 
virtuous character is attempted to be drawn, wo- 
men of affected manners. 

The cenfure which I have now paffed upon 
thefe celebrated Comedians, is far from being over- 
ftrained or fevere. Accuftomed to the indelicacy 
of our own Comedy, and amufed with the wit and 
humour of it, its immorality too eafily efcapes our 
obfervation. But all foreigners, the French efpe- 
cially, who are accuftomed to a better regulated 
and more decent Stage, fpeak of it with furprife 
and aftonifhment. Voltaire, who is, afluredly, none 
of the moll auftere moralifts, plumes himfelf not a 
little upon the fuperior bienfeance of the French 
Theatre,** and fays, that the language of Englifh 
Comedy is the language of debauchery, not of 
politenefs. M. Moralt, in his Letters upon the 
French and Englifh Nations, afcribes the corrup- 
tion of manners in London to Comedy, as its 
chief caufe. Their Comedy, he fays, is like that 
of no other country ; it is the fchool in which the 
youth of both fexes fimiliarife themfelves with vice, 
which is never reprefented there as vice, but as 
mere gaiety. As for Comedies, fays the ingenious 
M. Diderot, in his obfervations upon Dramatic 
Poetry, the Englifh have none; they have, in their 
place, fatires, full, indeed, of gaiety and force, but 
1 1 without 


without morals, and without tafte; Jans mceurs et 
Jans gout. There is no wonder, therefore, that 
Lord Kaims, in his Elements of Criticifm, fhould 
have expreffed himfelf, upon this fubject, of the 
indelicacy of Englifh Comedy, in terms much 
ftronger than any that I have ufedj concluding his 
invective againft it in thefe words : " How odious 
" ought thofe Writers to be, who thus fpread in- 
" feflion through their native country j employ - 
<c ing the talents which they have received from 
" their Maker mod traiteroufly againft Himfelf, 
<c by endeavouring to corrupt and disfigure his 
Cf creatures. If the Comedies of Congreve did 
<c not rack him with remorfe in his laft moments, 
" he muft have been loft to all fenfe of virtue." 
Vol. II. 479- 

I am happy, however, to have it in my power 
to obferve, that, of late years, a fenfible reforma- 
tion has begun to take place in Englifh Comedy, 
We have, at laft, become afhamed of making our 
public entertainments reft wholly upon profligate 
characters and fcenes ; and our later Comedies, of 
any reputation, are much purified from the li- 
centioufnefs of former times. If they have not 
the fpirit, the eafe, and the wit of Congreve and 
Farquhar, in which refpect they muft be con r 
feffed to be fomewhat deficient j this praife, how- 
ever, they juftly merit, of being innocent and 

a a 2 Fop. 


For this reformation, we are, queftionlefs, 
much indebted to the French Theatre, which has 
not only been, at all times, more chafte and in- 
ofFenfive than ours, but has, within thefe few years, 
produced a fpecies of Comedy, of ftill a graver turn 
than any that I have yet mentioned. This, which 
is called the Serious, or Tender Comedy, and was 
termed by its oppofers, La Comedie Larmoyante, is 
not altogether a modern invention. Several of 
Terence's Plays, as the Andria, in particular, 
partake of this character ; and as we know that 
Terence copied Menander, we have fufficient rea- 
fon to believe that his Comedies, alfo, were of 
the fame kind. The nature of this Compofition 
does not by any means exclude gaiety and ridi- 
cule; but it lays the chief ftrefs upon tender and 
interesting fituations; it aims at being fenti- 
mental, and touching the heart by means of 
the capital incidents ; it makes our pleafure arife, 
not fo much from the laughter which it excites, 
as from the tears of affection and joy which ic 
draws forth. 

In Englifh, Steele's Confcious Lovers is a Co- 
medy ,which approaches to this character, and it 
has always been favourably received by the Pub- 
lic. In French, there a-^e feveral Dramatic Com- 
pofitions of this Kind, which pofTcfs confiderable 
merit and reputation; fuch as the " Melanide," 
and ft Prejuge a la Mode," of La Chauflee; the 
« Pere de Famille," of Diderot; the " Cenie," of 



Mad. GrafE^ny ; and the « Nanine," and « L'En- L E c T - 


<c fant Prodigue," of Voltaire. 

When this form of Comedy firft appeared in 
France, it excited a great controversy among the 
Critics. It was objected to, as a dangerous and 
unjuftifiable innovation in Compofition. It is not 
Comedy, faid they, for it is not founded on 
laughter and ridicule. It is not Tragedy, for it 
does not involve us in forrow. By what name 
then can it be called ? or what pretenfions hath it 
to be comprehended under Dramatic Writing ? 
But this was trifling, in the moft egregious man- 
ner, with critical names and diftin&ions, as if thefe 
had invaribly fixed the effence, and afcertained the 
limits, of every fort of Compofition. Affuredly, 
it is not neceffary that all Comedies fhould be 
formed on one precife model. Some may be en- 
tirely light and gay; others may be more ferious; 
fome may be of a mixed nature; and all of them, 
properly executed, may furnifh agreeable and ufe- 
ful entertainment to the Public, by fuiting the 
diffent taftes of men*. Serious and tender Co- 
medy has no title to claim to itfelf the pofieftion of 
the Stage, to the exclufion of ridieule and gaiety. 

* " II y a beaucoup de tres bonnes pieces, ou il ne regne 
«' que de la gayete; d'autres toutes ferieufes ; d'autres melan- 
" gees ; d'autres, ou 1'attendrifTement va jufq'aux larmes. 1] 
*' ne faut donner exclufion a aucune genre ; & (i l'on me de- 
*' mandoit, quel genre eft le meilleur? Je repondrois, celui qui 
(i eft le mjeux traite." Voltaire. 

A A 3 BUI 



But when it retains only its proper place, without 
ufurping the province of any other ; when it is 
carried on with refemblance to real life, and with- 
out introducing romantic and unnatural fituations, 
it may certainly prove both an interefting and an 
agreeable fpecies of Dramatic Writing. If it be- 
come infipid and drawling, this muft be imputed 
to the fault of the Author, not to the nature of the 
Compofition, which may admit much livelinels and 

In general, whatever form Comedy aiTumes, 
whether gay or ferious, it may always be efteemed 
a mark of Society advancing in true politenefs, 
when thofe theatrical exhibitions, which are de- 
figned for public amufement, are cleared from in- 
delicate fentiment, or immoral tendency. 1 hough 
the licentious buffoonery of Arlftophanes amuied 
the Greeks for a while, they advanced, bv degrees, 
to a chafter and jufter taftej and the like progrefs 
of refinement may be concluded to take place 
among us, when the Public receive with favour, 
Dramatic Compofitions of fuch a drain and fpirit, 
as entertained the Greeks and Romans, in the 
days of Menander and Terence. 




63* The Numeral Letters refer to the Volume,; 
and the Figures to the Pages, 

/JCCENTS, thrown farther back from the termination in 

"^ the Englifh than in any other language, i. 206. Seldom 
more than one in Englifh words, ii. 404.. Govern the 
meafure of Englifh verfe, iii. 98. 

Achilles, his character in the Iliad, examined, iii. 225. 

Aftion, much ufed to affift language in an imperfect ftate, I. 
122. And by antient orators and players, 126. Funda- 
mental rule of propriety in, ii. 419. Cautions with refpedt 
to, ibid. In epic poetry, the requifites of, iii. 197. 

Afts, the divifion of a play into five, an arbitary limitation, 
iii. 2S7. Thefe paufes in reprefentation ought to fall pro- 
perly, 289. 

Adam, his character in Milton's Paradife Loft, iii. 268. 

Addifon, general view of his EfTay on the Pleafures of the Ima- 
gination, i. 50. His invocation of the mufein his Campaign, 
cenfured, 88. Blemifhes in his ftyle, 244. 246. 264. Eafe 
and perfpicuity of, 272. 274. 279. His beautiful defcrip- 
tion of light and colours, 336. inftance of his ufe of mixed 
metaphor, 359. Improper ufe of fimilies, 401. His gene- 
ral character as a writer, ii. 37. Character of his Spectator, 
54. Critical examination of fome of thofe papers, 56. Re- 
marks on his criticifm of TafTo's Aminta, iii. 125. note. His 
tragedy of Cato critically examined, 283, 300. 309. 314. 
A A 4 Adjeftizti, 


Adjectives, common to all languages, i. 181 . How they came 
to be claffed with nouns, 182. 

Adverbs, their nature and ufe defined, i. 192. Importanceof 
their pofition in a fentence illuitrated, 243. 

^ZLneid of Virgil, critical examination of thac poem, iii. 233. 
The fuhjeft, 234. Adtion, 235. Is deficient in characters, 
ibid. Diftributiqn and management of the fubjecl, 237. 
Abounds with awful and tender fcenes, 239. The defcent of 
^Eneas into hell, 240. The poem left unfinifhed by Virgil, 

*37- 241- 
jEfcbities, a comparifon between him and Demoflhenes, ii. 183. 
jEfchylus, his character as a tragic writer, iii. 317. 
JEtna, remarks on Virg'l's defcription of that mountain, i. 83. 

And en that by Sir Richard Blackmore, 84. 
Affetlation, the difadvantages of, in public fpeaking, ii. 422. 
■Ages, four, peculiarly fruitful in karned men, pointed out, 

"'• J' ., his comparifon between fublimity in natural and mors,! 

obje&s, i. 61. note. Inftance of his happy allufion to 
figures, 335. Character of his Plafures of the Imagination, 
iii. 143. 

Alphabet of letters, the confederations which led to the inven- 
tion of, i. 150. Remote obfeurity of this invention, 152. 
The alphabets of different nations derived from one com- 
mon fource, 153. 

Allegory, explained, i. 364. Antiently a favourite method of 
conveying inftruftions, 366. Allegorical perfonages impro- 
per agents in epic poetry, iii. 2 1 3. 264. 

Ambiguity in ftyle, whence it proceeds, i. 243. 

Amplification in fpeecb, what, i. 418. Its principal inftru- 
ment, ibid. 

American languages, the figurative ftyle of, i. 131. 329. 

Anagnorijis, in antient tragedy, explained, iii. 292. 

Annals, and hiftory, the diftin&ion between, iii. 49. 

Antients and moderns diftinguifhed, iii. 4, The merits of an- 
tient writers are now finally afcertnined, 5. The progrefs of 
knowledge favourable to the moderns, in forming a com- 
parifon between them. 8. In philofophy and hiftory, 9. 
The efforts of genius greater among the antients, 10. A 
mediocrity of genius now more diffufed, 13. 

Antitbejis in language explained, i. 408. The too frequent 
ufe of, cenfured, 4C9. 

Apojlropbe, the nature of this figure explained, i. 390. Fine 
one from Cicero, ii. 225. note. 

Arabian Nights Entertainments, a character of thofe tales, 
iii. 72. 



Arabian poetry, its characler, iii. 89. 

Arbutbnot, characler of his epiftolary writing, iii. 66. 

Architecture, fublimity in, whence it arifes, i. 59. The fources 
of beauty in, 101. 

Arguments, the proper management of, in a difcourfe, ii. 369. 
Analytic and fynthetic methods, 373. Arrangement of, 375. 
Are not to be too much multiplied, 379. 

Aricjio, characler of his Orlando Furiofo, iii. 74. 254. 

Arijlotle, his rules for dramatic and epic compolitions, whence 
derived,! 42. His definition of a fentence, 237. Hia ex- 
tended fenfe of the term mataphor, 344. Characler of his 
liyle, ii. 12.21. His inftitutions of rhetoric, 1 79. His de- 
finition of tragedy confidered, iii, 275. Hisobfervations oa 
tragic characters, 304. 

Arijlojhanes, characler of hi? cort'.Jies, iii. 341. 

Arithmetical figures, univerfal chsraclers, i. 150. 

Ark of the covenant, choral fervice perfoi med in the proceffion 
of bringing it back to Mount Sion, Iii. 170. 

Armjlrong, characler of his Art of preferving Health, iii. 143. 

Art, works of, confidered as a fource of beauty, i. 100. 

Articles, in language, the ufeof, i. 165. Their importance in 
the Englifh language illuftrated, ibid. 

Articulation, clearnefs of, neceflary in public fpeaking, ii. 404. 

AJJbciations, academical, recommended, ii. 44.1. Inflruclions 
for the regulation of, 442. 

Athenians, antient, characler of, ii. 171. Eloquence of, 172. 

Atterhury, a more harmonious writer than Tillotfon, i. 307. 
Critical examination of one of his fermons, ii. 309. His 
exordium to a 30th of January fermon, 352. 

Attici and Afiani, panies at Rome, account of, ii. 193. 

Authors, petty, why no friends to criticifra,, i. 43. Why the 
moft antient afford the moil ftriking inilances of fublimity, 

69. Mull write with purity, to gain efteem, 210. 


Bacon, his obfervations on romances, iii. 71. 

Ballads, have great influence over the manners of a people, iii. 

70. Were the firfl vehicles of hiftorical knowledge and in- 
ftruftion, 86. 

Bar, the eloquence of, defined, ii. 164.. Why more confined 
than the pleadings before antient tribunals, 209. Dillinc- 
tion between the motives of pleading at the bar, and fpeak- 
ing in popular alTemblies, 245. In what refpecls antient 
pleadings differ from thofe of modern times, 247. Instruc- 
tions for pleaders, 250. 363. 

Bards, antient, the firll founders of law and civilization, iii. 86. 



Barrow, Dr. character of his fiyle, ii. 16. Character of his 
fermons, 304. 

Beaumont and Fletcher, their characters as dramatic poets, 
iii. 349. 

Beauty, the emotion raifed by, diftinguifhed from that of fub> 
limity, i. 92. Is a term of vague application, ibid. Co- 
lours, 94. Figure, ibid. Hogarth's line of beauty, and 
line of grace, cor.fidered, 96. Motion, 97. A land- 
scape the molt complete affemblage of beautiful objects, 99. 
The human countenance, ibid. Works of art, 100. The 
influence of fitnefs and defign in our ideas of beauty, 101. 
Beauty in literary compofition, 103. Novelty, 104. Imi- 
tation, 105. 

Bergerus, a German critic, writes a treatife on the fublimity of 
Casfar's Commentaries, i. 66. 

Berkeley, biihop, character of his Dialogues on the Exiilence 
of Matter, iii. 62. 

Biography, as a clals of hiftorical compofition, characterifed, 
iii. 51. 

Blackmore, Sir Richard, remarks on his defcription of Mouni 
v£tna, i. 84. 

Black-wall, his character as a writer, ii. 41. 

Boileau, his character as a didactic poet, iii. 148. 

Bolingbroke, inflances of inaccuracy in his ftyle, i. 2-8. 
283. A beautiful climax from, 277- A beautiful 
metaphor from, 345. His general character as a politician 
and philofopher, 347. His general character as a writer, 
ii. 43. 438. _ 

Bombajl in writing, defcribed, i. 89. 

Bojfu, his definition of an epic poem, iii. 191. His account 
of the compofuion of the Iliad, 192. 

Bojfuet, M. inftances of apoftrophes to perfonified objects, in 
his funeral orations, i. 339. note. Conclufion of his funeral 
oration on the prince of Conde, ii. 395. 

Britian, Great, not eminent for the ftudy of eloquence, ii. 
204. Compared with France in this refped, 206. 

Bruyere, his parallel between the eloquence of the pulpit and 
the bar, ii. 279. note. 

Buchanan, his character as an hiitorian, iii. 47. 

Building, how rendered fublime, i. 59. 

Cadmus, account of his alphabet, i. 153. 
Cafar's Commentaries, the ftyle of, characterifed, i. 65. Is 
confidered by Bergerus as a itandard of fublime writing, 66. 



Inftance of his happy talent in hiftorical painting, Hi. 40. 
note. His character of Terence the dramatift. 344. note. 

Camotns, critical examination of his Lufiad, iii. 255. Con- 
futed machinery of, 256. 

Campbell, Dr. his observations on Englifh particles, i. ijg. 

Carmel, Mount, metaphorical allufions to, in Hebrew Poetry, 
iii. 176. 

Cafimir, his character as a lyric poet, iii. 135. 

Catajlrophe, the proper conduct of, in dramatic reprefenta- 
tions, iii. 291 . 

Caudina; Furcse, Livy's happy defcription of the difgraceof the 
Roman army there, iii. 37. 

Celtic language, its antiquity and character, i. 196. The re- 
mains of it, where to be found, ibid. Poetry, its charac- 
ter, iii. 88. 

Charaders, the danger of labouring them too much in hiftorical 
workf, iii. 43. The due requifnes of, in tragedy, 302. 

Chinefe language, character of, i. 124. And writing, 149. 

Chivalry, origin of, iii. 72. 

Chorus, antient, defcribed, iii. 278. Was the origin of tra- 
gedy, 279. Inconveniences of, 281. How it might pro- 
perly be introduced on the modern theatre, 283 

Chronology, a due attention to, neceflary in hiftorical compe- 
titions, iii. 25. 

Chryfojlom, St. his oratorial character, ii. 202. 

Cibber, his character as a dramatic writer, iii. 351. 

Cicero, his ideas of tafte, i. 20. note. His diftinction between 
amare and diligere, 227. His obfervation on ftyle, 240. 
Very attentive to the beauties of climax, 277. Is the molt 
harmonious of all writers, 291. His remarks on the power 
of mufic in orations, 296. His attention to harmony too vi- 
fible, 306. Inftance of his happy talent of adapting found to 
fenfe, 308. His account of the origin of figurative lan- 
guage, 328. His obfervations on fuiting language to the 
iubject, 349. His rule for the ufe of metaphor, 352. In- 
ftance of antitheiis in, 409. The figure of fpeech called 
virion, 452. His caution againft bellowing profufe orna- 
ment on an oration, ii. 4. His diftinctions of ftyle, 10. His 
own character as a writer, 12. His character of the Grecian 
orators, 175. His own character as an orator, 190. Com- 
pared with Demofthenes, 194. Mafterly apoftrophe in, 22c. 
■note. His method of ftudying the judicial caufes he undertook 
to plead, 25 1 . State of the profecution of Avitus Cluentius, 
260. Analyfis of Cicero's oration for him, 261. The ex- 
ordium to his fecond oration againft Rullus, 346. His me- 
the i of preparing introductions to his oration, 349. Ex- 


celled in narration, 365. His defence of Milo, ibid. 37$., 
-iMtance of the pathetic, in his Jail oration againft Verrcs* 
390. Character of his treatife De Oratore, 44c. Charac- 
ter of his Dialogues, iii. 60. His Epiftles, 66. 
Clarendon, lord, remarks on his ftyle, i. 254.. His character 

as an hillorian, iii. 48. 
Clarke, Dr. the flyle of his fermons charadlerifed, ii. 303. 
Clajjics, antient, their merits now finally fettled beyond con- 

troverfy, iii. 5. The ftudy of them recommended. jc. 
Cliviaxy a great beauty in compofition, i. 276. In what it 

confifts, 418. 
Cluer.tius, Avitus, biftory of hi? profecution, ii. 260. Hiscaufe 
undertaken by Cicero, ibid. Analyfis of Cicero's oration 
for him, ibid. 
Colours cotifidered as the foundation of beauty, i. 94. 
Comedy, how diftinguifhed from tragedy, iii. 272. 331. Rules 
for the conduct of, 334. The characters in, ought to be of 
eur own country, and of our own time, 335. Two kinds 
of, 336. Characters ought to be diftinguiflied, 338. Style, 
339. Rife and progrefs of comedy, 340. Spanifli comedy, 
345. French comedy, 346. Englifh comedy, 348. Licen- 
tioufnefs of, from the asra of the reftoration, ibid. The re- 
formation of, to what owing, 357. General remarks, 358. 
Ccniparifon, diftinguiflied from metaphor, i. 342. The nature. 

of this figure explained, 397. 
Compojition. See Literary compofition. 

Congreve, the plot of his Mourning Bride embarraffed, iii. 287. 
General character of this tragedy, 331. His comedies, 353. 
Conjugation of verbs, the varieties of, i. 187. 
Conviclion diftinguiflied from perfuafion, ii. 162. 
Copulatives^ cautions for the ule of them, i. 265. 
Corncille, his characlcr as a tragic writer, iii. 322. 
Couplets, the firft introduction of, into Englifh poetry, iii. 105. 
Cowley, inftances of forced metaphors in his poems, i. 352. 
His ufe of fimilies cenfured, 405. His general character as 
a poet, iii. 136. 
Crevier, his character of feveral eminent French writers, ii. 

436. not!. 
Criticijm, true and pedantic, diftinguiflied, i. 10. Itsobjeft, 41. 
Its origin, 42. Why complained of by petty authors, 43, 
May fometimes decide againft the voice of the public, 44. 
Cyphers>Qt arithmetical figures, a kind of univerfal character, 

i, 15Q. 


David, king, his magnificent inftitutions for the cultivation 
of facred mufic and poetry, iii. 168. His charatter as 3 

poet, 185. 



Debate in popular affemblies, the eloquence of, defined, ii. 
164. More particularly confidered, 215. Rules for, 216. 
Declamation, unsupported by found reafoning, falfe elo- 
quence, ii. 2 1 5. 
Declenfion of nouns confidered, in various languages, i. 172. 
Whether cafes or prepofitions were moft antiently ufed, 174. 
Which of them are moft uftful and beautiful, 176. 
Deities, heathen, probable caufe of the number of, i. 376. 
Deliberative orations, what, ii. 212. 

Delivery^ the importance of, in public fpeaking, ii. 228. 397. 
The four chief requifites in, 400. The powers of voice, 
ibid. Articulation, 402. Pronunciation, 404. Emphafis, 
405. Paufes, 408. Declamatory delivery, 417. Action, 
418. Affectation, 422. 
Demetrius Phalerius, the rhetorician, his character, ii. 185. 
Demonjl ratine orations, what, ii. 212. 

Demojibenes, his eloquence characlerifed, ii. 172. His expe- 
dients to furmount the difadvactages of his perfon and ad- 
drefs, 181. His oppofition to Philip of Macedon, 182. His 
rivalfhip with ^E'.chines, 183. His ftyle and aclion, 184. 
Compared with Cicero, 194. Why his orations ftill pleafe 
in perufal, 216. Extracts from his Philippics, 231. His 
definition of the feveral points of oratory, 397. 
Dejcriftion, the great teft of a poet's imagination, iii. 149. 
Selection of circumftances, 150. Inanimate objects fhouid 
be enlivened, 156. Choice of epithets. 160. 
Defcription and imitation, the dillinclion between, i. 108. 
Des Brojfes, his fpeculations on the expreffive power of radical 

letters and fyllables, i. 119. note. 
Dialogue writing, the properties of, iii. 57. Is very difficult 

to execute, 58. Modern dialogues characterifed, ibid. 
Didactic poetry, its nature explained, iii. 137. The mod 
celebrated productions in this clafs fpecified, 138. Rules 
for compolitions of this kind, ibid. Proper embellifhments 
of, 141. 
Diderot, M. his character of Englifh comedy, iii. 356. 
Dido, her character in the ^Eneid examined, iii. 236. 
Dionyjius of Halicarnaflus, his ideas of excellency in a fen- 
tence, i. 293. His diitinctions of ftyle, ii. 9. Character 
of his treatife on Grecian oratory, 178. His comparifort 
between Lyfias and Ifocrates, 179. note. His criticifm on 
Thucydides, iii. 24. 
Difcourfe. See Oration. 

Dramatic poetry, the origin of, iii. q\. Diflinguifhed by its 
objects, 272^ See Tragedy and Comedy. 



Drydett, one of the firfr. reformers of our ftyle, ii. 19. John- 
ion's character of his profe ftyle, 20. note. His charter 
as a poet, iii. 106. His character of Shakefpeare, 326. 
vote. His own character as a dramatic writer, 329. 351. 

Du Bos, Abt-e, his remark on the theatrical compoiiuons of 
the antients, i. 294. 


Education, liberal, an effential requifitefor eloquence, ii. 402. 

Egypt, the ftyle. of the hieroglyphi:al writing of, i. 147. This 
an early ftage of the art of writing, ibid. The alphabet 
probably invented in that country, 153. 

Empbafis, its importance in public fpeaking, ii. 405. Rule 
for, 407. 

Eloquence, the feveral objects of confederation under this head, 
11.159. Definition of the term, 160. Fundamental maxims 
of the art, 161. Defended againft the objection of the abufe 
of the art of perfuafion, 162. Three kinds of eloquence 
diftinguifhed, ibid. Oratory the higheft degree of, the off- 
fpring of paffion, 164. Requifites for eloquence, 167. 
French eloquence, 168. Grecian, 170. Rife and cha- 
racter of the rhetoricians of Greece, 173. Roman, 187. 
The Attici and Afiar.i, 193. Companion between Cicero 
and D c mofthenes, 194. The fchools of the declaimed, 
200. The eloquence of the primitive fathers of the church, 
202. General remarks on modern eloquence, 203. Parlia- 
ment, 209. The bar, ibid, and pulpit, 210. The three 
kinds of orations diftinguifhed by the antients, 212. Thefe 
diftinclions how far correfpondent with thofe made at pre- 
fent, 213. Eloquence of popular afTemblies confidered, 214. 
The foundation of eloquence, 215. The danger of truft- 
ing to prepared fpeeches at public meetings, 218. Necef- 
fary premeditation pointed out, -2 19. Method, 220. Style 
and expreflion, 221. Jmpetuofity, 223. Attention to de- 
corums, 226. Delivery, 228. 397. Summary, 229. See 
Cicero, Demojlbenes, Oration, and Pulpit. 

Englijh language, the arrangements of words in, more refined 
than that of ancient languages, i. 139. But more limited, 
140. The principles of general grammar feldom applied to 
it, 159. The important ufe of articles in, 165. All fub- 
itantive nouns of inanimate objects, of the neuter gender, 
168. The place of declenfion in, fupplied by prepofitions, 
174. The various tenfes of Enghfli verbs, 187. Hiflorical 
view of the Englifli language, 196. The Celtic the primi- 
tive language of Britain, 197. The Teutonic tongue the 


1 N D E X. 

bifis ofour prefentfpeech, 198. Its irregularities accounted 
for, 199, Its copioufnefs, 2CO. Compared with the French 
language, 201. Its ftyle characterised, 202. Its flexibility, 
204. Is more harmonious than is generally allowed, ibid. 
Is rather ftrong than graceful, 205. Accent thrown farther 
back in Englifh words th?n in thofe of any other languaee, 
ibid. General properties of the Englifh tongue, 206. Why 
fo lcofely and inaccurately written, 207. The fundamental 
rubs of fyntax, common to both the Lnglifh and Latin, 209. 
No author can gain efteem if he does not write with purity, 
210. Grammatical authors recommended, 211, note. 

Epic poetry, the ftandards of, iii. 14. Is the highelt effort of 
poetical genius, 190. The characters, obfeured by cri- 
tics, 191. Examination of Boffu's account of the formation, 
of the liiad, ibid. Epic poetry confuiered as to its mora! 
tendency, 195. Predominant character of, 197. Action 
ef, 198. Epifodes, 199. The fubject fhould be of remote 
date, 203. Modern hiitory more proper for dramatic writ- 
ing than for epic poetry, 204. The flory muft be intereiting 
and fkilfully managed, 205. The intrigue, ibid. The 
quefticn coniidered, whether it ought to end fuccefsfully, 
206. Duration of the action, 207. Characters of theper- 
ionages, 208. The principal hero, 209. The machinery, 
210. Narration, 213. Loofe o'ofervations, 214. 

Epifode, defined with reference to epic poetry, iii. 199, Rules 
for con duel of, 201. 

Epiftclary writing, general remarks on, iii. 62. 

Eve, her character in Milton's Paradife Loft, iii. 268. 

Euripides, inftance of his excellence in the pathetic, iii. 313. 
note. His character as a tragic writer, 318. 
Exclamations, the proper ufe of, i. 413. Mode of their ope- 
ration, ibid. Rule for the employment of, 414. 

Exercife improves both bodily and mental powers, i. 22. 

Exordium of a difcourfe, the objects of, ii. 343. Rules for the 
compofition of, 347. 

Explication of the fubject of a fermon, obfervation on, ii. 367. 


Face, human, the beauty of, complex, i. 99. 

Farqubar, his character, as a dramatic wricer, iii. 353. 

Fathers, Latin, character of their ftyle of eloquence, ii. 202. 

Fsntlon, archbfhiop, his parallel between Demofthenes and 
Cicero, ii. 197. His remarks on the competition of a fer- 
mor., 358. Critical examination of his Adventures of Te- 
lemachus, iii. 259. 

Fielding-, a character of his novels, iii. 77. 



Figurative rtyle of language defined, i. 316. Is not a fchc- 
laitic invention, but a natural effufion of imagination, 318, 
Howdefcribed by rhetoricians, 319. Will not render a cold 
or empty composition interesting, 322. The pathetic and 
fublime reject figures of fpeech, 324. Origin of, ibid. How 
they contribute to the beauty of ftyle, 330. Illuitrate de- 
scription, 333. Heighten emotion, 334. The rhetorical 
names and clafTes of figures frivolous, 337. The beauties 
of compofition not dependent on tropes and figures, ii. I. 
Figures mull always rife naturally from the fubject, 2. Are 
not to be profufely ufed, 4. The talent of ufing derived 
irom nature, and not to be created, 6. If improperly in- 
troduced, are a deformity, ;. note. See Metaphor. 

Figure, confidered as a fource of beauty, i. 194. 

Figures of fpeech, the origin of, i. 129. 

Figures of thought, among rhetoricians, defined, i. 320. 

Fitnefs and design, confidered ss fources of beauty, i. 101. 

Fleece, a poem, harmonious paflage from, i. 313. 

Fonteuelle, character of his Dialogues, iii. 61. 

French, Norman, when introduced into England, i. 197. 

French Writers, general remarks on their liyle, ii. 15. Elo- 
quence, 168. 203. French and Englifh oratory compared, 

Frigidity in writing characlerifed, i. 89. 


Gay, a character of his pafiorals, iii. 124. 

Gender of nouns, foundation of, i. 167. 

Genius diftioguifhed from tafle, i. 46. Its import, 47. In- 
cludes taite, 48. The pleafures of the imagination, a link- 
ing teflimony of Divine benevolence, 51. True, is nurfed 
by liberty, ii. 167. In arts and wriiing, why difplayed more 
in one age than in another, iii. 2. Was more vigorous in 
the antiencs ihan in the moderns, 10. A general medio- 
crity of, now diffufed, 13. 

Gefner, a character of his Idylls, iii. 123. 

Gejlures, in public oratory. See Attion. 

Gil Bias, of Le Sage, character of that novel, iii. 76. 

Guard, Abbe, character of his Synonytnes Fratiiois/i. 234. 

Gordon, inftances of his unnatural difpofnion of words, i. 272. 

Gorgias of Leontium, the rhetorician, his character, ii. 175. 

Gothic poetry, its character, iii. 88. 

Gracchus, C. his declamations regulated by mufical rules, i. 

Grammar, general, the principles of, little attended to by 



Writers, i. 1 5 3. The divifion cf the feveral parts of fpeed?., 
159. Nouns fubttantive, 161. Articles, 163. Number* 
gender, and cafe of nouns, 166. Prepofitions, 174. Pro- 
nouns, 179. Adjectives, 181. Verbs, 184. Verbs, the 
moft artificial and complex of 3II the parts of fpeech, 189. 
Adverbs, 192. Prepofitions and conjunctions, 193. lm^ 
portance of the ft udy of grammar, 195. 

Grandeur. See Sublimity. 

Greece, fliort account of the ancient republics of, ii. 170. Elo- 
quence carefully ftudied there, 172. Characters of the dii- 
tinguifhed orators of, 173. Rife and character of the rhe- 
toricians, 175. 

Greek, a mufical language, i. 125. 294, It3 flexibility, 203-. 
Writers, diftinguifhed for fimplicity, ii. 34. 

Guarini, character of his Pajhr Ftdo, iii. 125. 

Guicciardini) his character m an hiftorian, iii. tfi. 


Hahakkuh, fublime reprefentaticn of tb? Deity in, i. 7^. 

Harris, explanatory iimile cited from, i. 399. 

Hebrew Poetry, in what points of view to be considered, iii. 16c. 
The ancient pronunciation of, Jolt, i65. Mufic and poetrv 
early cultivated among the Hebrews, 167. Conftrudtion oi 
Hebrew poetry, t68. Is diftinguifhed by a concife, ftrong, 
figurative expreflion, 170. The metaphors employed in> 
fuggefted by the climate and nature of the land of Judea, 
174. ]8o. Bold and fublime inftances of perfonification in, 
I81. Book of Proverbs, 183. Lamentations of Jeremiah, 
ibid. Book of Job, 187. . 

Helen, her characterjn the Iliad examined, iii. 223. 

Hell, the various defcents into, given by epic poets, fhew the 
gradual improvement of notions concerning a future itate,, 
iii. 260. 

Henri ade. See Voltaire. 

Herodotus, hie character as a hiitorian, ii. it. 14. 

Heroi/m, fublime inftances of, pointed out, i. 60. 

Herijcy, character of his ftyle, ii. 28. 

Hieroglyphics, the fecond ftage of the art of writing, i. 145, 
'Ofiigypt, 147. 

Hiftorians, modern, their advantages over the anient, iii. 10. 
Antient models of, 14. The objects of their duty, 17^ 
Character of Polybius, 21. Of Tnucydides, 23. Of He- 
rodotus and Thuanus, 25. Primary qualities neceifary in a 
hiftorian, 27. Character of Livy and Salluft, 29. OfTa- 
cfus, 3c. Inftructions and cautions to hiftorians, ibid. Kovr 
ro preierve the dignity of narration, -j.. How to render ir 
vol. 111. * b interefting, 

I N D £ X. 

jnterefling, 35. Dange- of refining too much in drawing 
characters, 43, Charader of the Italian hiftorians, 45. 
Th' French and Eogliih, 4^. 

Hiftory, thfe proper object and end of, iii. 17. True, the cha- 
racters of, .8. The different clafles of, 19. General Hi ftory, 
the proper conduct of, 20. The necefldry qualities of hifto- 
rical narration, 23. The propriety of introducing orations 
in hiftory examined, 42. And characters, 43. The Italians 
the bell modern hiftorians, 45. See Annals, Biography* 
■ Memoirs, and Novels. 

Hogarth, his analyfis of beauty considered, i. 96* 

Homer, not acquainted with poetry as a fyftematic art, i. 42. 
Did not poflefs a refined taite, 49. Inftancesof fublimity in, 
71. Is remarkable for the ufe of personification, 381. Story 
of the Iliad, iii. 217. Remarks on, 2 J 8. His invention and 
judgment in the conduct of the poem, 220. Advantages and 
defects arifiog from his narrative fpeeches, 223. His cha- 
racters, ibid. His machinery, 225. His ftyie, 228. His 
£kiil in narrative defcription, 229. His fimiiies, 230. Ge- 
neral character of his OdyfTey, 282. Defects of the Odyfley, 
233. Compared with Virgil, 240. 

Hooker, a fpecimen of his ftyle, ii. 18. 

Horace, figurative paflages cited from, i. 332. Inftance of mixed 

metaphor in, 359. Crowded metaphors, 361. His cha- 

, racter as a poet, iii. 15. 134. Was the reformer of fa tire, 


Humour, why the Englifh poflefs this quality more eminently 

than other nations, ii. 348. 
Hyperbole, an explanation of that figure, i. 368. Cautions 
for the ufe of, 369. Two kinds of, 370. 


Ideas, abfiract, entered into the firft formation of language, i. 

Jeremiah, his poetical character, iii. 1 36. See Lamentations. 
Iliad, ftory of, iii. 217. Remarks on, 218. The principal 

characters, 223. Machinery of, 225. 
Imagination, the pleafures of, as fpec.fied by Mr. AJdifon, i. 

5c. The powers of, to enlarge the fphere of our pleafures, 

a ftrikinginihnce of Divine benevolence, 51. Isthefource 

of figurative language, 318. 326. 
Imitation, confidered as a iource of pleafure to tafte, i. 105. 

And defcription, oiilinguiftied. 108. 
Inferences from a fermon, the proper management of, ii- 394. 
Infinity of fpace, numbers, or duration, affect the mind with 

fublime ideas, i. 54. 



Interjections the firft elements of fpeech, i. 116. 

Interrogations, inftances of the happy ufe and affect of, i. 412, 
Mode of their operation, 414. i<uie for ufing, ibid. 

'Job, exemplification of the fublimity of obfcurity in the book 
of, i. 58. Remarks on the ftyle of, iii. 167. The fubject 
and poetry of, 187. Fine paffage from, 188. 

"John/on, .his characterof Dryden's profe ityle, ii. 20. note. His 
remarks on the flyle of Swift, 135. note. His character of 
Thomfon, iii. 152. note. His character of Dryden's come- 
dies, 376. note. His character of Congreve, ibid. note. 

John/on, Ben, his character as a dramatic poet, iii. 349. 

J/aus, the rhetorician, his character, ii. 179. 

Ifaiah, fabHme reprefentation of the Deity in, i.71. His de- 
cryption of the fall of the Aflyrian empire, 393. His meta- 
phors fuited to the climate of Judea, iii. 175. 177, 178. 
His character as a poet, 186. 

Jfocrates, the rhetorician, his character, i". 177. 

Judea, remarks on the climate and natural circumftances of 
that country, iii. 174. 

Judicial orations, what, ii. 212. 

Juvenal, character of his faures, iii. 144. 

Kaimes, lord, his fevere cenfure of Englifh comedies, iii. 356. 
Knight errantry, foundation of the romances concerning, iii. 

7 2 ' ; • .y - * 

Knowledge an eiTential requifite for eloquence, ii. 432. The 

progrefs of, in favour of the moderns, upon a companion 

with the antients, iii. 8. The acquifition of, difficult in 

former ages, 1 1. 


Lamentations of Jeremiah, the moft perfect elegiac compomion 

, in the facred lcriptures, iii. 183. 

Ztfs^<z/£ con fidered as analTemblage of beautiful objects,?. 99. 

Language, the improvement of, ftudied even by rude na- 
tions, i. 2. In what the true improvement of language con- 
fifts, 3. Importance of the ftudy of language, 4. Defined, 
I12. The prefent refinements of, 113. Origin and 
progrefs of, 1 1 5. The firft elements of, 117. Analogy 
between words and things, 118. The great affiilance af- 
forded by geftures, 122. The Chinefe language, 124. The 
Greek and Roman languages, 125. Action much ufed by 
antient orators and players, 126. Roman pantomimes, 127. 
Great difference between antient and modern pronunciation, 
128. Figures of fpeech, the origin of, 129. Figurative 
B b 2 ftvle 


$yle of American languages, 131. Caufe of the decline cf 
figurative language, 134. The natural and original arrange- 
ment of words in fpeech, 136. The arrangement of worda 
in modern languages, different from that of the antients, 
! 38. An exemplification, ibid. Summary of the foregoing 
obfervations, 143. Its wonderful powers, 335. All lan- 
guage ftrongly tin&ured with metaphor, 343. In modern 
productions, often better than the fubje&s of them, ii. 157. 
Written and oral, diftinction befiween, ii. 437. See Gratr,- 
mar, Style, and Writing. 

Latin language, the pronunciation of, muiical and gefticula- 
ting, i. 125. 294. The natural arrangement of words in, 
137. The want of articles a- defect in, 165.. Remarks or* 
words deemed fynonymous in, 227. 

Learning, an eflential requisite for eloquence, ii. 432. 

Lebanon, metaphorical allufions tc,in Hebrew poetry, iii. 176-. 

Lee, extravagant hyperbole quoted fromyi. 371. His character 
as a tragic poet, iii. 31-9. 

Liberty the nurfe of true genius, ii. 167. 

Literary compoficion, importance of the ftudy of language, pre- 
paratory to, i. 6. The beauties of, indefinite, 103. To 
what clafs chepleafures received from eloquence, poetry, and 
Sne writing, are to be referred, jo6. The beauties of, not 
dependent on tropes and figares, ii. 2. The different kinds 
of, diilinguifhed, iii. 17. See Hijiory, Poetry, &c. 

Liiiy, his character as an hiftorian, iii. 29. 37. 

Lccke, general character of his ftyle, ii. 23. The ftyle of his 
Treatife on Human Underftanding, compared with the 
writings of Lord Shaftlbury, iii. 5.7. 

Longinm, ftrictures on his Treatife on the Sublime, i. 67. Ilia 
account of the confequences of liberty, ii. 167. His fenten- 
tious opinion of Homer's Odyffey, iii. 231. 

T.tpez de la Vega, his character as a dramatic poet, iii. 345. 

Love, too much importance and frequency allowed to, on the 
modern ftage, iii. 306. 

Lcutb's Englifh Grammar recommended, i. 211. note. 266. 
note* His character of the prophet Ezekiel, iii, 186. 

Lucan, inftance of his destroying a fublime expreflion of Casfar, 
by amplification, i. 76. Extravagant hyperbole from, 373* 
Critical examination of his Pharfalia, iii. 2j2. Thefubject, 
243. Characters and conduct of ike ftory, 244. 

I.ucian, character of his Dialogues, iii. 67. 

Lucretiusy his fublime reprefentation of the dominion of fuper- 
ftition over mankind, i. 58. note. The moll admired paf- 
fages in his Treatife De Rerum Ncftura i iii. 141. 
*Ai/ibd, See Ca/nocns- 



fyrie poetry, the peculiar character of, iii. 128. Four claiTej 
of odes, 130. Characters of the nfrjft eminent 1/xic poets, 

Ljfuas, the rhetoricisc, his character, ii. .179. 


Macbiaixl , his character as an hiftorian, iii. 4£„ 

Machinery, the great ufeof, in epic poetry, iii. 210. Cautions 

for the ufe of, 212. 225. 
Mackenzie, Sir George, inftance of regular clima*: in his plead- 

ings, 1. 419. 

Man, by nature both a poet and muScian, iii. 84, 

Mari'vaux, a character of his novels, iii 76. 

Marmontel, his comparative remarks on French, Englifh, and 
Italian poetry, iii. 102. note. 

Mar/)', Fr his contraft between the characters of Corneille and 
Racine, iii. 323. now. 

MaJJillon, extract from a celebrated fermon of his, ii. 300. arte*, 
Encomium on, by Louis XIV. 307. His artful divifion of 
a text, 362. 

Memoirs, their clafs in hiftorical competition affi^ned, iii. 49. 
Whv the French are fond of this kind of wricing, 50. 

Metalepfis, in figurative language, explained, i. 340. 

Metaphor, in figurative ftyle, explained, i. 341, 342. All lan- 
guage itrongly tinctured with, 343. Approaches the neareft 
to painting, of all the figures of fpeech, 345. Rules to be 
obferved in the conduct of, 347. See Allegory, 

Metajxafiio, his character as a dramatic writer, iii. 325. 

Metonomy, in figurative ftyle, explained, i. 34.4. 

Mexico, hiftorical pictures the records of that empire, i. 145. 

Milo, narrative of the rencounter between him and Clodiu?* 
by Cicero, ii. 365. 

Milton, inftances of fublimity in, i. 56. 79. 82. Of harmony, 
291. 311, Hyperbolical fentiments of Satan in, 371. 
Striking inftances of perfonification in, 382, 1S3. 385. Ex- 
cellence of his defcriptive poetry, iii. 154. Who the proper 
hero of his Paradife Loft, 209. Critical examination of 
this poem, 265. His fublimity characterifed, 269. His 
language and verification, 270. 

Moderns. See Antieats. 

Moliere, his character as a dramatic poet, iii. 3460 

Monboddo, lord, his obfervations on Englifh and Latin verfe* 
iii. 98. note. 

Monotony in language, often the refult of too great attention to 
cauueal fcTwangeoient., i. 304. 

8 * 3 Montague, 


Montague, lady Mary Wortley, a character of her epistolary 

Style, iii. 69. 
Montefquieu, character of his Style, ii. 12. 
Monumental infcriptions, the numbers fuited to the Style, i. 316. 
Moralt . M. his fevere cenfure of Erglifh comedy, iii, 354. 
More, Dr. H-nry, chara&er of his Divine Dialogues, iii. 61. 
Motion, confidered as a fource of beauty, i. 97. 
Motte, M. de la, his observations on lyric poetry, iii. 132. note. 

Remarks on his criticiSm on Homer, 231. note. 
Mujic, its influence on the psffions, iii. 84. Its union with 

poetry, 85. Their Separation injurious to each, 93. 


Na'i'vete, import of that French term, ii. 33. 

Narration, an important point in pleadings at the bar, ii. 363. 

Night fcenes, commonly fublime, i. 56. 

Nomic melody of the Athenians, what, i. 295. 

Novels, a fpecies of writing, not fo infignificant as may be ima- 
gined, iii. 70. Might be imployed for very ufeful purpofes, 
ibid. Rife and progrefs of fictitious hiStory, 72. Characters 
of the moft celebrated romances and novel;, 74. 

Novelty confidered as a fource of beauty, i. 105. 

Nouns, fubitantives, the foundation of all grammar, i, 161. 
Number, gender, and cafes of, 166, 167. 


Obfcurity, not unfavourable to fublimity, i. 57. Of Style, 
owing to indillinct conceptions, 215. 

Ode, the nature of, defined, iii. 128. Four distinctions of, 
130. Obfcurity and irregularity, the great faults in, 131. 

Odyjfey, general character of, iii, 232. Defects of, 233. 

Oedipus, an improper character for the ftage, iii. 305. 

'Orators, antient, declaimed in recitative, i. 126. 

Orations, the three kinds of, distinguished by the antients, it 
212. The prefent distinctions of, 213. Thofe in popular 
affemblies confidered, 21 4. Prepared fpeeches not to be 
trufted to, 21S. Neceffary degrees of premeditation, 219. 
Method, 220. Style and expreflion, 221. Impetuofity, 223. 
Attention to decorums, 226. Delivery, 228. 397. The fe- 
veral parts of a regular oration, 343. Introduction, ibid. 
Introduction to replies, 355. Introduction to ferraons, 356. 
Divifion of a difcourfe, 358. Rules for dividing it, 360. 
Explication, 363. The argumentative parr, 369. The pa- 
thetic, 380. The peroration, 393. Virtue neceffary to the 
perfection of eloquence, 427. Description of a true orator, 
43°* Qualifications for, 432. The beft an tiertf writers on 

oratory , 


oratoryj 443. in. 14. The ufe made of orations by the an - 
tient hiftorians, 42. See Eloquence. 

Oriental poetry, more characteriitical of an age than of a coun- 
try, iii. 88. 

i\y\e of fcripture language, i. J32. 

Orlando, Furio/o. See Ariojlo, 

OJJlan. inftanees of fublircmy in his works, i. 74. Correct 
metaphors, 356. Confufed mixture of metaphorical and 
plain language in, 357. Fine apoilrophe in, 391. Deli- 
cate fimile, 400. Lively deicriptions in, iii. 160. 

Otnvay, his character as a tragic poet, iii. 329. 


Pantomime, an entertainment of Roman origin, i. 127. 

Parables, E after n, their general vehicle for the conveyance 
of ;ruth, iii. 180. 

Paradife LoJ?, critical review of that poem, iii. 265. The 
chara&ersin, 267. Sublimity of, 269. Language and veri- 
fication, 270. 

Parentbefes, cautions for the ufe of them, i. 258. 

Paris, his character in the Iliad, examined, iii. 224. 

Parliament of Great Britain, why eloquence has never been 
fo powerful an inftrument in, as in the antient popular af- 
fernblies of Greece and Rome, ii. 209. 

Parnel, his character as a defcriptive poet, iii. 153. 

Particles, cautions for the ufe of them, i. 265. Ought never 
to clofe fentences, 281. 

Paffion, the fource of oratory, ii. 164, 

Pajjions, when and how to be addreffed by orators,, ii. 381. 
The orator mult fee! emotions before he can communicate 
them to others, 385. The language of, 388. Poecs ad- 
drefs themfelves to the paftions, iii. So. 

Pafioral poetry, inquiry into its origin, iii. 107. A three- 
fold view of paltoral life, 1 to. Rules for p2ltoral writing, 
in. Its fcenery, 113. Characters, 116. Subjects, ibid. 
Comparative merits of antient paitoral writers, 121. And 
of moderns, 122. 

Pathetic, the proper management of, in a difcourfe, ii. 380. 
Fine inftance of, from Cicero, 389. 

Paufes, the due ufes of, in public fpeaking, ii. 408. In 
poetry, 410. iii. 99. 

Pericles, the firft who brought eloquence to any degree of 
perfection, ii. 173. His general character, 174. . 

Period. See Sentence. 

Perfonifcation, the peculiar advantages of the Englifh lan- 
guage in, i. 17c, Limitations of gender in, 171. Cbjec- 
b b 4 tions 


lions againft the practice of, anfwered, 375. The difpofj- 
tion to animate the objects about us, natural to mankind, ibid. 
This difpofuion may account for the number of heathen di- 
vinities, 376. Three degrees of this figure, 377. Rules for 
the management of the higheft degree of, 386. Caution 
for the ufe of, in profe com petitions, 388. See Apojlrophe. 
Perfius, a character, of his Satires, iii. 144. 
Perfpicuity, efientia! to a good ftyle, i. 214. Not merely a 

negative virtue, 215. The three qualities of, 216. 
Perfuafeon, diftinguifhed from conviction, ii. 16 1. Objection 
brought from the abufe of this art, anfwered, 162. Rules 
for, 214. 
Peruvians, their method of tranfmitting their thoughts to 

each other, i. 148. 
Petronius Arbiter t his addrefs to the dcdaimers of his time, 

ii. 2CO. 
Pharjalia. See Lucan. 

Pherecydes of Scyros, the firft profe writer, i. 133. 
Philips, character of his paltorals, iii. 123. 
Philofopbers, modern, their fuperiority over the antient, un* 

queitionable, iii. 9, 
Philofophy, the proper ftyle of writing adapted to, iii. 54. 

Proper embellifhments for, 55. 
Piciures, the firft effay toward writing, i. 145. 
Pindar, his character as a lyric poet, iii. 1 34. 
Pitcairn, Dr. extravagant hyperbole cited from, '.374. 
Plato, character of his dialogues, iii. 59. 
Plauius, his character as a dramatic poet, iii. 343. 
Pleaders at the bar, inftructions to, ii, 249. 363. 
Pliny's Letters, general character of, iii. 65. 
Plutarch, his character as a biographer iii. 51. 
Poetry, in what fenfe defcripuve, and in what imitative, i. 108. 
Is more antient than profe, i 32. Source cf the pleafure we 
leceive from the figurative ftyle of, 3^2. Teft of the merit 
of, 401. Whence the difficulty of reading poetry arifes, ii. 
410. Compaied with oratory, 4:5. Epic, the ftandards of, 
iii. 14. Definition of poetry, 80. Is addreffed to the ima- 
gination and the paffions ibid. Its origin, 82. In what 
?enfe older than profe, ibid. Its union with mufic, 85. An- 
tient hiflory and infti uttion firft conveyed in poetry, ibid. 
Oriental, more characteriflica! of an age than of a country, 
88. Gothic, Celtic, and Grecian, ibid. Origin of the dif- 
ferent kinds of, 90. Was more vigorous in its firft rude 
ififiys than under refinement, 92. Was injured by the repa- 
ration of mufic from it, 93. Metrical feet, invention of, 96. 
Tbefe rr.cafqrcs not applicable to EngJifh poetry, 97. 



Englifh heroic verfe, the flruflore of, 99. French poetry, 
ibid. Rhyme and blank verfe compared, 101. Proerefs of 
Englifh verification, 105. Paftorals, 107. Lyrics, 128. 
Didadic poetry, 137. Defcriptive poetry, 148. Hebrew 
poetry, 165. Epic poetry, 190. Poetic characters, two 
kinds of, 208. Dramatic poetry, 272. 

Pointing, cannot correft a confufed fentence, 1. 258. 

Politics, the fcience of, why ill underftood among the antients, 
iii. 28. 

Polybius, his character as an hifiorian, iii. 21. 

Pope, criticifm on a paflage in his Homer, i. 78. Profe fpeci- 
men from, confiding of ihort fentences, 240. Other fpeci- 
mens of his ftyle, 273. 284. Confufed mixtures of meta- 
phorical and plain language in, 354. Mixed metaphor in, 
360. Confufed perfonification, 587. Inftance of his fond- 
nefs for antithefes, 41 1. Character of his epiftolary writings, 
iii. 67. Criticifm on, 68. Conftrudtion of his verfe, 100. 
Peculiar character of his verfification, 106. His paftorals, 
118. 123. His ethic epiftles, 146. The merits of his va- 
rious poems examined, ibid. Character of his tranilation 
of Homer, 228. 

Precifion in language, in what it confifts, i. 219. The im- 
portance of, 242. Requisites to, 234. 

Prepojitions, whether more antient than thedeclenfion of nouns 
by cafes, i. 174. Whether more ufeful and beautiful, 176, 
Dr. Campbell's obfervations on, 179. note. Their great 
life in fpeech, 193. 

Prior, allegory cited from, i. 3^5. 

Pronouns, their life, varieties, and cafes, i. 179. Relative, in- 
itances illuftrating the importance of their proper pofition 
in a fentence, 246. 

pronunciation, diflindlnefs of, necefTary in public fpeaking, ii, 
403. Tones of, 414. 

Proverbs, book of, a didaclic poem, iii. 183. 

Pfalm xviii. fublime reprefentation of the Deity in, ?. 70. 
Jxxxth, a fine allegory fiom, 365. Remarks on the poetic 
conftrudlion of the Pfalms, ii. 169. 177. 

Pulpit, the eloquence of, defined, ii. 165. Englifhand French 
iermons compared, 206. The pradice of reading fermons 
in England cifadvantageous to oratory, 210. The art of 
perfuafion refigned to the puritans, ibid. Advantages and 
oifadvantages of pulpit eloquence, 277. Rules for preach- 
ing, 281. The chief charaderiftics of puJpit eloquence, 
284. Whether it is belt to read Iermons, or deliver them 
extempore, 296. Pronunciation, 297. Remarks on French 
ft/rpoEs, 298. Caufe of the dry argumentative ftyle of 



Eogliih ferrnorvs, 301. General cbfervations, ' 305, 
PyJiJIratus, the firft who cultivated the arts of fpeech, ii. S75, 

^uinclilian, his ideas of tafte, i, 20. note. His account of the 
antirnr :Hvifion of the feveral parts of fpeech, 160. note. His 
remarks on the importance of the ftudy of grammar, 395. 
On per/picukv of ftyle, 214 226. On climax, 276. On 
the ftructore of fentences, 282. Which ought not to offend 
the ear, 288. 302. His caution againft too great an atten- 
tion to harmony, 304. His caution againft mixed metaphor, 
356. His fine apoftrophe on the death of his fon, 391. His 
rule for the ufe of fimilies, 406. His directions for the ufeof 
figures of ftyle, ii. 5. His distinctions of ftyie, 9. 26. 
His instructions for good writing, 46, 47. His character of 
Cicero's oratory, 192. His initructions to public fpeakers 
for preferving decorums, "226. His inftructions to judicial 
pleaders, 251. His obfervations on exordiums to replies in 
debate, 3550 On the proper divifion of an oration, 358. 
His mode of addrefiing the paflions, 586. His lively repre- 
fentation of the effects of depravity, 428. Is the beft aniiens 
writer on oratory, 445. 


Racine, his character as a tragic poet, iii. 322. 

Ram/ay, Allan, character of hip Gentle Shepherd, iii. 127. 

Rapin, P. remarks on his parallels between Greek and Ronaan. 
writers, ii. 196. 

Retz, cardinal de, character of his memoirs, iii. 5Q. 

Rhetoricians, Grecian, rife and character of, ii. 175. 

Rhyme, in Engfiih verfe, unfavourable to fabhrnity, i. 77- And 
blank verfe compared, iii. 103. The former, why impro- 
per in the Grerk and Latin languages, 104. The firft in- 
troduction of couplets in Englifh poetry, 105. 

Richard/on, acharucVrof his novels, iii. 77. 

Ridicule, an intlrument often mifapplied, iii. 333. 

Robin/on Crufoe, character of that novel, iii. 77. 

Romance, cierivation of the term, iii. 73. See Novels. 

Romans, derived their learning from Greece, ii. 1S7. Corn- 
parifon between them and the Greeks, 188. Historical 
view of their eloquence, 189. Oratorical character of Ci- 
cero, 191. jEra of the decline of eloquence among, 198. 

Roujfeaii, Jean Baptifte, his character as a lyric poet, iii. 136. 

Rovje, his character as a tragic poet, iii. 329. 


Salluft, his character as an biitorian, iii. 29. 
Saunazanus, his pifcatory eclogues, iii. 122. 



Satan, examination of his character in Milton's Paradife Loft, 
iii. 265. 

Satire, poetical, general remarks on the ftyle of, iii. 143. 

Saxon hnguage, how eftablifhed in England, i. 197. 

Scenes, dramatic, what, and the proper conduct of, iii. 29J. 

Scriptures, facred, the figurative ftyle of, remarked, i. 132. 
The translators of, happy in fuiting their numbers to the Sub- 
ject, 309. Fine apoftrophe in, 39V Prefer. t. us with the 
molt antient monuments of poetry extant, iii. 165. The di- 
verficy of ftyle in the feveral books of, 166. The Pfalms 
of David, 169. No other writings abound with fuch bold 
and animated figures, 173. Parabies, 180. Bold and fub- 
lime inftances of perfonification in, 181. Book of Proverbs, 
183. Lamentations of Jeremiah, ibid. 

Scuderi, maaam, her romances, iii. 75. 

Seneca, his fr p qoent antithefes cenfured, i. 410. Character 
of his general ftyle, iii. 15. 56. His epiftolary writings, 

Sentence in language, definition of, i. 237. Difiinguifhed into 
long and ihort, 238. A variety in, to be ftudied, 24): The 
properties eflential to a perfect fentence, 242. A principal 
rule for arranging themembcrs of, 243. Pofition of adverbs, 
ibid. And relative pronouns, 246. Unity of a fentence, 
rules for preferving, 251. Pointing, 258. Parenthefe.% 
ibid. Should always be brought to a perfect clofe, 260. 
Strength, 262. Should be cleared oi redundancies, 264. 
Due attention to particles recommended, 265. The omifT.on 
of particles fometimes connecT c bjects clofer together, 268. 
Directions for placing the important words, 271. Climax, 
276. A like order neceiLiry to be obferved in all all'ertions 
or propositions, 279. Sentences ought not to conclude 
with a feeble word, ibid. Fundamental r.'.ie in the con- 
struction of, 286. Sound not to be difregarded, 288. Two 
circumstances to be attended to for producing harmony in, 
289. 299. Rules of the antient rhetoricians for this pur- 
pofe, 292. Why harmony much iefs fludied now than for- 
merly, 294. Englifh words cannot be fo exactly meafured 
by metrical feet, as thofe of Greek and Latin, 29S. What is 
required for the mufica* clofe of a fentence, 303. Unmean- 
ing words introduced merely to round a fentence, a great 
blemifh, ibid. Sounds ought to be adapted to fenfe, 307. 

Sermons, Englifh, compared with French, li. 205. Unity an 
indifpenfable requifite in, 285. The fubject ought to be 
precife and particular, 287. The fubject not to be ex- 
hausted, 288. Cautions againft drynef, 290. And againll 
conforming to fafhionable modes of preaching, 292. Style,. 
293. Quaint expressions, 295. Whether belt : to De written 



c- Jcif ered extempore, 296, Delivery, cor. Remarks on 
French fermons, 298. Caute of the dry argumentative fiyle 
©f Englifh lermcns, 303. General obfervaiions, ^05. Re- 
marks on the proper divificns of, 358. Conclu&on, 394^ 
Delivery, 597, 

Sevignt, madame de, character of her Letter?, iii. 69. 

Sknfitjhxvj , lord, observations en his Itvle, j. 223. 241. 256. 
273. 275. 3C6. 5&:- His general charter as a writer, 

i>- 39- 
Sktbkefpearr, the merit of his plays examined, i. 45. Was not 
po^eftt'd of a refined tafte 40. Infiance of his improper ufe 
of metaphor, 351. 358. Exhibits p?.ffions in the language 
of nature, iii. 31^. His character as a tragic poet, 32^. 
As a comic poet, 349. 
8ieafi$ar 3 his pallerbl Daliad, iii. 124. 
Shepherd* the proper character of, in paftoral defcrioticn, i». 

Sheridan-, his difUmftLon between' ideas and emotions, ii. 414. 

t!9i 'e. 
Sherlock, bifhop, fine inllance of perfoni£cation cited from his 
fcrmons, i. 380. A happy alluhon cited from his fermons, 
ii. 295. ncte. 
Sums Iialicui, his fublirae reprefentation of Hannibal, i. 62. 

S,imih, difHnguifhed from metaphor, i. 342. 397. Sources of 
the pleafure they afford, ibid. Two kinds of, 398, Re- 
quires in, 401. Rules for, 403. Local propriety to be 
adhered to in, 406. 
Simplicity, applied to llyle, different fenfes of the term, ii. 30. 
Smollet, improper ufe of figurative fryle, cited from, i. 349. note, 
Solomons borg, defcriptive beauties of, iii. 158. 
Songs, Runic, the origin of Gothic hiltory, iii. 86. 
Sophijls of Greece, riie and character of, ii. 175. 
Sophocles, the plots of his tragedies remarkably fimpJe, hL 
286. Excelled in the pathetic, 312. His character as a 
tragic pcet, 3 i'3. 

:-!{-, why the emotions of, excited by tragedy, communi- 
cate pleafure, iii. 292. 
Semrdt, of an awful nature, affeA us with fablimi.y, i. 54. In- 
fluence of, in the formation of words, 1 17. 

■r, public, mull be diieSed more by his €3r than by 
rules, i, 299. 
SftShtfr, general character of that publication, ii. 54. Criti- 
cal examination of thole papers that treat cf the plealures 
of imagination, 56. 

C powers of, the diftlnguifhing privilege of mankind, 
' i' I, TjU grammatical diafion cf, iota eight parts, not 


I N D E & 

logical, 160. Of the ancients, regelated by mu£cai fu'es, 

Strata, his chara&er as an biftorian, lit. 46, 

Styie in language defined, i. 21*. The difference of in dif- 
ferent countries, 213. The qualities of a good ftyle, ibiJ, 
Perfpicuicy, 2! 4. Obfcurity, owing to indittinA concep- 
tions, 215. Three require qualities in perlpictjity, 216. 
Preciiion, 216. A loofe ftyle, from what it proceeds, 22:. 
Too great an attention to predion rewlers a ftyle dry and 
barren, 236. French dift.nolion of ftyle, 239. Thec-ha^ac- 
*ers of, flow from peculiar modes of thinking, ii, 7. Dif- 
ferent fuhje&s require a different fty'e, 8. Antient difiins- 
tions of, 9. The different kinds of, 10. Concife anddif- 
fufive, on what occafjons proper, u. Nervous and feeble, 
16. A haifh ftyle, from what it proceeds, tS. A'ra of 
the formation of our prefent ftyle, ibid. Dry manner de- 
scribed, 7i» A plain ftyle, ibid. Neat ftyie, 24. Elegant 
ftyle, 2c. Florid ftyle, 26. Natural ftyle, 29. Different 
fenfes of the term ftmplicity, 30. The Greek writers dif- 
tinguimed for Simplicity, 34. Vehement ftyle, 42. Gene- 
ral directions how to attain a good ftyle, 46. imitation 
dangerous, 50. Style not to be ftudied to the neglect of 
{noughts, 51. Critical examination of thole papers in l&s 
vipeSator that treat of the pleafures of imagination, 0. 
Critical examination of a paffage in Swift's writings, ijS, 
General observations, 157. bee Eloquence . 

Ii uklimity of external objects, and Sublimity in writing dMIn- 
guiilied, i. 52. Its impreftions, 53. Of Space, 54. Of 
jounds. ibid. Violence of the elements, 55. Solemnity 
bordering on the terrible, ibid. Obfcurity, not unfavour- 
able to, 57. In building, $9. Fleroifm, 60. Great virtue, 
61. Whether there is any one fundamental quality in ths 
Sources of fublime, 63. 

Sublimity in defined, \. 66. Errors in Longinus poInteS 
out, 67. The moft antient writers afford the moft ftriking 
inftances of fublimity, 69. Sublime reprefentation of th« 
Deny in Plalm xviii. 70. And in the prophet Habakkuk, 
ibid. In Mofes and Ifaiah, 71. Inflances of fublimity is. 
Homer, 72. In Offian, 74. Amplification itijuiious to 
Sublimity, 75. Rhyme in Englifti verfe, unfavourable to. 
77. Strength effential to fublimc writing, So. A proper 
choice of eircumftances effential to fublime defcription, S? 
S'ridlures on Virgil's defcription of Mount v5vtna, 83. The 
proper Sources of the fublime, 85. Sublimity confiits in the 
thought, not in the words, ey. Thg faults eppoied to the 
Sublime, 89. 

$*l<j, dukf de, character of his Memoirs, Hi, 5c. 

1 % SvferjHthm? 

i N D E X. 

Superfliticn, fublime representation of its dominion over man^ 
kind, from Lucretius, i. 58. note. 

Swift, obfervations ^n hi; ftyle, i. 218. 234 257. 283. 307. 
Genera 1 character of his ftyle, ii. 22. Criti dl examination 
cf the beginning of his propofai for correcting, &c. the 
Eoglifh tongue, 136. Conc'uciing obfeivations, 157. His 
language, 43S. Character of iiis epifto'ary writing, Lit. 61. 

Syllables, Engl fh, cannot be fo exactly meafured by metrical 
feet, as thofe of Greek and Latin, i. 298. 

Synecdoche, in figurative ftyle, explained, i. 340. 

Synonymous words, observations on, i. 226. 


Tacitus, character of his ftyle, iii. 12. His character as an 
hiftorian, 30. His happy manner of introducing incidental 
obfervations, 32. Inftance of his fuccefsful talent in hifto- 
rical painting, 40. His defects as a writer, 42. 

TaJJo, a paffage from his Gierufalcmme diftinguifhed by the 
harmony of number?, i. 312. Strained fentinrsents in his 
paftorah, iii. 117. Character of his Aminta, 125. Cri- 
tical examination of this pcem, 249. 

Tafte, true, the ufes of, in common life, i. 13. Definition of, 
18. Is more or lefs common to all men, 19. Is an im- 
provable faculty, 21. How to be refined, 23. Is affified 
by reafon, 25. A good heart requifite to a juft tafte, 26. 
Delicacy and correcinefs the characters of perfect tafte, 27. 
Whether there be any ftandard of tafte, 30. The diverfuy 
of, in different men, no evidence of their taftes being cor- 
rupted, 31. The teft of, referred to the concurring voice 
of the polifhed part of mankind, 37. Diftinguifhed from 
genius, 46. The fources of pleafure in, 50. The powers 
of, enlarge the fphere of our pleafures, 51. Imitation, as 
a fource of pleafure, 105, Mufic, ibid. To what clafs 
the pleafures received from eloquence, poetry, and fine 
writing are to be referred, 106. 

Telemachus. See Fenelon. 

Temple, Sir William, obfervations on his ftyle, i. 222. Speci- 
mens, 239. 255. 260. 267. 300. His general character a» 
a writer, ii. 36. 

Terence, beautiful inftance of Simplicity from, ii. 34. His cha- 
racter as a dramatic writer, iii. 343. 

Terminations of words, the variations of, in the Greek and 
Latin languages, favourable to the liberty of tranfpofition, 
i. 141. 

Theocritus, the earlieft known writer of paftorals, iii. 109. His 
talent in painnng rural fernery, 113. Character of his paf- 
torals, 121. 

j Thorn/on. 

I N D E X k 

^tomfen, fine paffage from, where he animates alS nature*, i. 
383. Character of hb Seafons, iii. 151. His elogium by 
Dr. Johnfon, 152. note. 

Tbuanus, his character as an hiflorian, iii. 25. 

Tbucydides, his character as an hiilorian, iii. 23. Was the nril 
who introduced orations in hiftorical narration, L \?.. 

Tillotfon, archbifiiop, obfervafious on his ftyle, i, 2 -.2. 250- 
300. 35s. General character of, as a w.iter, ii. -A. 

'Tones, the due management of, in public fpeaking, ii. ^'4. 

'Topics, a.iuong the ancient rhetorician?, explained, ii. 370. 

Tragedy, how diitingu'fhed from comedy, iii. 272. More par- 
ticular definition of, 273. Subject and conduct of, 2-5. 
Rife and progrefs of, 27S. The three dramatic unifies, 
285 Divifion of the reprefentation into acts, 207- The 
can ftrcphe 291. Why the furrow excited by tragedy com- 
municates pleafure, 293. The proper idea of fcenes, and 
how to be conducted, 295. Characters, 302. Higher de- 
grees of morality inculcated by modern than by ancient 
tragedy, 306. Too great ufe made of the pafiion of love, 
on the modern flages, ibid All tragedies expected to be 
pathetic, 307. The proper ufe of moral reflections in, 313. 
The proper fly 1 e and verification of, 3 1 5. Brief view of the 
Greek ftage, 316. French tragedy, 321. Engbfh tragedy, 
326. Concluding observations, 330. 

Tropes, a definition of, i. 319. Origin of, 324. The rhetori- 
cal diftinctions among, frivolous, 337. 

Tur?ius, the character of, not favourably treated in the ^neid, 
iii. 237. 

Turpin, archbilhop of Rheims, a romance writer, iii. 74, 

Typographical figures of fpecch, what, i. 416. 


Vanbrugh, his character as a dramatic writer, iii. 352. 

Verbs, their nature and office explained, :. 1S4. No fentence 
complete without a verb exprefled or implied, 185. The 
tenfes, 186. The advantage of Engliih over the Latin, in the 
variety of tenfes, 187. Active and paflive, 188. Are the 
moil artificial and complex of all the parts of fpeech, 1S9. 

Verfe, blank, more favourable to fublimity than rhyme, i, 78. 
.Inftructions for the reading of, ii. 411. Conduction of, 
'iii. 102, 

Virgil, inftances of fublimity in, i. 56. 81. 83. Of harmony, 
313. 315. Simplicity of language, 322. Figurative lan- 
guage, 339. 378. 391. Specimens of his paftoral descrip- 
tions, iii. 111. note. 118. Character of his paftoral, 121. 
His Georgics, a perfect model of didactic poetry, 139. The 
principal beauties in the Georgics, 141. Beautiful defcrip- 


I N D E X 

tions in his ^neid, 159. Critical examination of that 
poem, 233. Compared with Homer, 240. 

Virtue, high degrees of, a fource of the fublime, i. 61. A 
neceftary ingredient to form an eloquent orator, ii. 427. 

Vifwn. the figure of fpeech fo termed, in what it coniifts, i. 

Unities, dramatic, the advantages of adhering to, iii. 283, 
Why the moderns are lefs relbicted to the unities of time 
and place than the antients, 297. 

Voice, the powers of, to be ftudied in public fpeaking, ii. 400. 

Voiture, character of his epiftolary writings, iii. 69. 

Voltaire, his character as an hillorian, iii. 52. Critical exa- 
mination of his Henriade, 261. His argument for the ufe 
©f rhyme in dramatic compofitions, 316. His character as 
a tragic poet, 324. j 

Vojfius, Joannes Gerardus, character of his writings on elo* 
quence, ii. 443. 


Waller, the fir ft Englifh poet who brought couplets into vogue* 
iii. 106. 

Wit is to be very fparingly ufed at the bar, it. 257. 

tVardsy obfolete, and new coined, incongruous with purity of 
ftyle, i. 216. Bad confequences of their being i!l-chofen» 
219. Obfervations on thofe termed fynonymous, 226. 
Confidered with reference to found, 290. 

Words and things, inftances of the analogy between, i. 1 1 8» 

Writers of genius, why they have been more numerous in one 
age than in another, iii. 3. Four happy ages of, pointed out, 

Writing, two kinds of", diftinguiftied, i. 144. Pictures the firft 
eflay in, 145. Hjemglyphics the fecond, ibid. Chinefe 
characters, 149. Arithmetical figures, 150. The confi- 
derations which led to the invention of an alphabet, 151, 
Cadmus's alphabet, the origin of that now ufed, 154. Hif- 
torical account of the materials ufed to receive writing, ice, 
General remarks, 156. See Grammar, 

Young, Dr. his poetical character, i. 363. Too fond of anti-, 
thefes, 410. The merit of his works examinee 4 , iii. Ia.%, 
His character as a tragic poet, 330.